Seeing How Darwin’s Seminal Work “Evolved”

Computational scientist Greg McInerny and artist Stefanie Posavec have come up with a way for us to visualize how Darwin’s On the Origin of Species changed over the course of its six editions from 1852 to 1872. Behold the “literary organisms” of the (En)tangled Web Bank:


As McInerny explains:

Similarly to a botanical collection, the differences between the variations of a “type” are illustrated by dissection, arrangement and exploration of important structures—from the whole organism, key generic structures (Sentences, Paragraphs, Subchapters, Chapters) and a comparative focus on comparable branches (first and last chapters).
By aging each structural component we can understand the temporal origins of each … and this codification shows the literary organism responding to the scientific, philosophical and cultural environmental change itself engineered. The sentences forming the ‘leaflets’ of the organism are of orange, senescent tones when they will be deleted in following editions. The green, growth tones are applied to those sentences that have life in the following edition. The tone of each color is determined by its age, in editions, to that point. Through these differences in coloration the simplicity in structure in the early stages of the organism’s life develops into a complex form, showing when the structures developed to its changing environment. Around the organisms the textual code is provided, showing the changes in the size of the organism, and where the senescence and growth is derived in that code. A series of re-arrangements of the organism focus on changes at each level of organization.

Category: Evolution


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