Since Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was published in 1859, it has been translated into more than 35 languages, making it the most translated scientific text in history. Now, a new Chinese translation, aimed at children, has been added to the mix.
The text was translated by Desui Miao, the collections manager of the Biodiversity Institute at Kansas University. He began the project at the request of a 10-year-old boy who attended one of his lectures in Beijing. The lecture was aimed at promoting Miao’s previous Chinese translation of the book, aimed at adults. Miao told the Kansas City Star that when asked for a children’s version, “I cavalierly said, ‘Sure.’ I didn’t know what this all entailed. But how can you say ‘no’ to a kid?”
It took Miao two years to complete the project, which is really two translations rolled into one: translating the original scientific work into Chinese, and translating adult scientific language into simplified language more appropriate for kids. Plus, since it was aimed at children, it needed to be fun!
The effort has paid off in spades, with the first two printings selling out completely. To date, Miao’s publisher has sold more than 20,000 copies since it was released in January. The book is popular not just among kids, but also among adults looking for a translation of Darwin that’s a little bit easier to grasp.
Miao told the Kansas City Star that both of his translations improve upon earlier versions of the book available in Chinese:
“My translation is easier to read and is overall a more accurate translation. I cannot say there are no mistakes, but I think there are fewer mistakes than in others…Taking complex ideas and making them simple was a great challenge. The children’s book is very fun, and the main concepts still remain.”