Naturalist Alfred Wallace on the Internet


This video is called Operation Wallacea – Indonesia schools expedition.

From Wildlife Extra:

Historic collection of naturalist Alfred Wallace goes online for the first time

Treasure-trove of writings and images by the co-discoverer of natural selection

October 2012. The complete works of the great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace have been made freely available online on the Wallace Online website.

First announcement of the theory of evolution by natural selection

Amongst the thousands of pages of writings, it includes the first announcement of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Wallace and Darwin

Since the scientist’s death 99 years ago, Wallace’s complete publications have never been gathered together. The new website is unveiled in time for the centenary celebrations in 2013 that mark the anniversary of Wallace’s death in 1913.

Back in the 1850s, Wallace independently formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection during a fit of tropical fever. He later sent an outline of the theory – in one of the greatest ironies in history – to Charles Darwin. To avoid a priority dispute, papers by both men were read together at a London scientific meeting in July 1858. The event unleashed the Darwinian revolution whose shockwaves continue to this day.

Wallace has long been in the shadow of his more famous contemporary Charles Darwin. The compilation of this new website is timely and long overdue. It provides 28,000 pages of searchable historical documents and 22,000 images. They can now be seen free of charge by anyone around the globe at Wallace Online.

Wallace’s contributions to biodiversity

Wallace spent four years as a collector in Brazil (1848-1853) and eight years in Southeast Asia (1854-1862). In addition to collecting an astonishing 125,000 specimens of insects and birds, Wallace proposed a sharp dividing line between the Asian and Australian animals in the archipelago. This line still bears his name today and is called The Wallace Line.

One of the most influential scientists in history

Dr van Wyhe, project director, said: “Wallace was one of the most influential scientists in history. But until now, it has been impossible to see all of his writings. For the first time, this collection allows anyone to search through his writings about Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and see many of the birds and insects that he collected.”

Dr van Wyhe holds a joint appointment as Senior Lecturer at NUS’ Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of History, under Faculty of Science and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, respectively. He is also the founder and director of the award-winning Darwin Online at the University of Cambridge, UK.

This project was directed by historian Dr John van Wyhe from the National University of Singapore (NUS). The Wallace Online project was made possible by an anonymous grant from an American donor.

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8 thoughts on “Naturalist Alfred Wallace on the Internet

    • Hi Valerie, as far as I know Darwin did not try to overshadow Wallace. He did have the advantages over Wallace of living in England, a university education, etc. Darwin had been slow in publishing his ideas on evolution; the letter by Wallace stimulated him to publish them at last.

      • Hi, thanks for your reply… I had always understood that Darwin’s friends had insisted that Wallace and Darwin read their papers one after the other at the Royal Society do that Wallace wouldn’t over- shadow Darwin, and that Wallace had written to Darwin with his theory 19 years before, and had never heard back from Darwin… But I went into all this 20 years ago, and my memory may be faulty…

        • Hi Valerie, according to Wikipedia, the first letter to Darwin by Wallace was in 1857.

          Although Wallace’s first letters to Darwin have been lost, Wallace carefully kept the letters he received.[63] In the first letter, dated 1 May 1857, Darwin commented that Wallace’s letter of 10 October which he had recently received, as well as Wallace’s paper “On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species” of 1855, showed that they were both thinking alike and to some extent reaching similar conclusions, and said that he was preparing his own work for publication in about two years time.[64] The second letter, dated 22 December 1857, said how glad he was that Wallace was theorising about distribution, adding that “without speculation there is no good and original observation” while commenting that “I believe I go much further than you”.[65] Wallace trusted Darwin’s opinion on the matter and sent him his February 1858 essay, “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type”, with the request that Darwin would review it and pass it on to Charles Lyell if he thought it worthwhile.[66] On 18 June 1858, Darwin received the manuscript from Wallace. While Wallace’s essay did not employ Darwin’s term “natural selection”, it did outline the mechanics of an evolutionary divergence of species from similar ones due to environmental pressures. In this sense, it was very similar to the theory that Darwin had worked on for twenty years, but had yet to publish. Darwin sent the manuscript to Charles Lyell with a letter saying “he could not have made a better short abstract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my chapters … he does not say he wishes me to publish, but I shall, of course, at once write and offer to send to any journal.”[67] Distraught about the illness of his baby son, Darwin put the problem to Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker, who decided to publish the essay in a joint presentation together with unpublished writings which highlighted Darwin’s priority. Wallace had not asked for publication of his essay, but publishing the contents of letters from far-off naturalists was a common event in those times. Wallace’s essay was presented to the Linnean Society of London on 1 July 1858, along with excerpts from an essay which Darwin had disclosed privately to Hooker in 1847 and a letter Darwin had written to Asa Gray in 1857.[68]

          Communication with Wallace in far-off Malay was impossible without months of delay, so he was not part of this rapid publication. Wallace accepted the arrangement after the fact, happy that he had been included at all, and never expressed public or private bitterness. Darwin’s social and scientific status was far greater than Wallace’s, and it was unlikely that, without Darwin, Wallace’s views on evolution would have been taken seriously. Lyell and Hooker’s arrangement relegated Wallace to the position of co-discoverer, and he was not the social equal of Darwin or the other prominent British natural scientists. However, the joint reading of their papers on natural selection associated Wallace with the more famous Darwin. This, combined with Darwin’s (as well as Hooker’s and Lyell’s) advocacy on his behalf, would give Wallace greater access to the highest levels of the scientific community.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Russel_Wallace#Early_evolutionary_thinking

          So, the problem for Wallace was not Darwin as a person, but the class society of nineteenth century Britain.

  1. Pingback: Wallace, Darwin and evolution | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Evolution biologist Alfred Russel Wallace | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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