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"Greedy For Facts": Charles Darwin's Information Needs and Behaviors

Currier, James David (2007) "Greedy For Facts": Charles Darwin's Information Needs and Behaviors. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Aptly describing himself as "greedy for facts" and exercising "industry in observing and collecting facts", Charles Darwin passionately sought and assiduously organized, managed, communicated, and used information throughout his life. From a 21st-century information age perspective, Darwin can be seen as a pre-Melvil Dewey, multidisciplinary, Victorian era proto-information manager, whose skillfully-employed information behaviors were fundamental to realizing his seminal Origin of Species (1859) and in influencing his life-long scientific development. A large body of research about Darwin exists but little has been written in the library and information science (LIS) field regarding Darwin and his pivotal relationship with information. Human information behavior (HIB) is an emerging LIS subfield, which has principally studied the information needs and information seeking behaviors of modern era human beings. Cambridge University is the foremost provider of print and electronic access to more than 14,000 transcribed and edited extant letters written by and to Darwin. Using historical case study methodology, this dissertation applies an HIB-oriented approach to investigate and inventory Darwin's information needs and behaviors through analysis of his surviving correspondence and other primary and secondary Darwin-related scholarly sources. A general framework is developed, designating five interrelated, broad context information behavior (BCIB) classification categories for conceptualizing Darwin's information behavior roles: as information seeker, organizer, manager, communicator, and user. In the vein of Ellis et al.'s (1993) study designating eight information seeking behaviors exhibited by contemporary British scientists, this dissertation utilizes grounded theory to derive and explain more than fifty descriptive information behaviors (DIBs) exhibited by Darwin. DIBs are conceptual constructs which are used to specify and describe, via words and examples from Darwin's correspondence and writings, the relevant characteristics and nuances of his diverse information behaviors. A case study examines and explicates the crucial ways in which Darwin's information behaviors proved instrumental in preserving priority for his evolutionary ideas during a crisis period involving rival evolutionary theorist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858. An information-related timeline of Darwin's life, graphic models, and digital photographs illustrating his information behaviors are presented. Limitations of the study and areas for further research are also discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Currier, James
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDetlefsen, Ellenellen@sis.pitt.eduELLEN
Committee MemberGracy,
Committee MemberEdwards, Pamela
Committee MemberKoshman,
Date: 29 June 2007
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 23 April 2007
Approval Date: 29 June 2007
Submission Date: 17 May 2007
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: evolution; information network; Thomas Henry Huxley; Erasmus Darwin; Asa Gray; correspondents; James Paget; Linnean Society; online database; American Philosophical Society; classification system; Charles Lyell; Joseph Dalton Hooker; Syms Covington; entangled bank; information sources; Josiah Wedgwood; publishing; British Empire; mentoring; John Stevens Henslow; order; arrangement; Down House; H.M.S. Beagle
Other ID:, etd-05172007-170311
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:45
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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