How much we learn from history is never-ending. I never stop learning.
The Humble Wallace
Alfred Russell Wallace was born in 1823 in the United Kingdom. He was a celebrated naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist, illustrator, and author. He would be forever entwined with Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Together, in 1858 Darwin submitted a paper to the Linnean Society of London for consideration of publication. Darwin worked on his theory when Wallace wrote to him of his own theory soon after Darwin published his Origin of Evolution. Because Darwin had published the book that he was credited as the Father of Evolution. Darwin was Wallace's idol, and he acquiesced fame. Instead wanted nothing more than to return to the field collecting specimens.
Wallace shunned publicity and did not have family wealth to fall back on, as did Darwin. he had to keep exploring, collecting, and selling his specimens. Later in life, Darwin lobbied for Wallace's government to receive a pension for his lifelong contributions to science. Wallace did eventually receive a pension in 1881. These two naturalists were lifelong friends, respecting each other's achievements.
First Expedition of Wallace With Henry Bates
Wallace began his career as a surveyor with his brother's business until he secured a teaching position in 1844. There he met Henry Bates, also a naturalist forming a bond. Within a few years, they sailed from Liverpool inspired by stories of the New World. Their expedition would be funded by selling their collections of specimens from the Amazon. They decided to separate to cover more ground. After four years, Wallace would sail for England with his specimens. Tragically, the ship caught fire and sank with most all of Wallace's collections and papers. The crew and passengers were picked up by a passing ship. This wouldn't stop Wallace as his next expedition would take him to the Far East. He started there in 1854, and for the next eight years, he began accumulating thousands of specimens. In all, he had 125,000 specimens, 5000 of which were new to science. Along with his collections were 7500 shells, 13,100 butterflies, 83,200 beetles, and other insects. As he lay ill in bed, he had an epiphany and realized how species evolved; only the fittest survived, reproduced, and passed on their best characteristics to their offspring. immediately he wrote to Darwin
The Wallace Line
During this time, Wallace realized a pattern in animals around the archipelago and suggested an imaginary line dividing the area. This became known as the Wallace Line. In the image showing the line, Australia is in yellow, and Asia is shown as pink. After his return home Wallace published The Malay Archipelago, with descriptions of the Bird of Paradise, orangutans, and local natives. His book is one of the most popular science books of the nineteenth century. He dedicated the book to Darwin, who praised the book.
Wallace Trip to United States
In 1886, Wallace made a ten-month trip to the U.S., giving lectures and visiting his brother in California. He spent time in Colorado with American botanist, Alice Eastwood gathering flora and working on his glaciation theory. He warned of the dangers of deforestation and soil erosion and continued to advise human activities in the natural world.
At one point, Wallace became a spiritualist believing the spirit persisted after death. It is thought his writings on this subject added some skepticism to his scientific writings. Wallace died in his home in the U.K. in 1913. Sometime later, his children donated much of his papers and merchandise to several museums, the bulk going to the National History Museum of London. All over the world, his obituary was headlined, highlighting his contributions to science. The New York Times was quoted as "last of the giants like Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Lyell, and Owens. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was quoted as saying, "How I wish I had the brain of Russell Wallace, few men have lived with whom I have the greatest respect." Sir David Attenborough said, "there is no more admirable character in the history of science."
Awards Honoring Wallace
- 1868 The Royal Medal
- 1870 Gold Medal
- 1890 The Darwin Medal
- 1892 The Founders Medal
- 1892 The Linnean Medal
- 1908 The Coopley Medal
- 1908 Darwin-Wallace Medal
- 1908 The Order of Merit
Books by Wallace
A list of books by Wallace
- 1869 The Malay of the Archipelago
- 1876 The Geographical Distribution of Animals, this remained as the definitive test for 80 years
- 1880 Island Life
- 1889 Travels on the Amazon
- 1900 The World of Life
- 1903 Man's Place in the universe
- 1907 Is Mars habitable
MG Singh emge from Singapore on November 30, 2020:
A very interesting article. Compared to Darwin, Wallace is less known but his contribution is enormous.
Rosina S Khan on November 30, 2020:
This is an interesting account of Wallace who made numerous contributions to Science. It is good he handed over some of his theories to Darwin, his special friend. Thanks for sharing, Fran.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 30, 2020:
Thanks for your visit, Dale. I too was a little skeptical but I do see the value of evolution.
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on November 30, 2020:
I did not know any of this. I still am a ... 'skeptic' (very polite phrasing) of evolution but this is a great hub article, congratulations.