Evolution, Darwin, Wallace and Patrick Matthew

This video says about itself:

Forsdyke Evolution Academy 01-14 Patrick Matthew

12 October 2011

The second of a series of 12 videos on natural selection from a historical perspective.

From King’s College London in England:

April 20, 2015

The overlooked third man

The horticulturist who came up with the concept of ‘evolution by natural selection‘ 27 years before Charles Darwin did should be more widely acknowledged for his contribution, states a new paper by a King’s College London geneticist.

The paper, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, argues that Patrick Matthew deserves to be considered alongside Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace as one of the three originators of the idea of large-scale evolution by .

Furthermore, Matthew’s version of evolution by natural section captures a valuable aspect of the theory that isn’t so clear in Darwin‘s version – namely, that natural selection is a deductive certainty more akin to a ‘law’ than a hypothesis or theory to be tested.

Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) was a Scottish landowner with a keen interest in politics and agronomy. He established extensive orchards of apples and pears on his estate at Gourdie Hill, Perthshire, and became adept in horticulture, silviculture and agriculture.

Whilst Darwin and Wallace‘s 1858 paper to the Linnean Society, On the Origin of Species, secured their place in the history books, Matthew had set out similar ideas 27 years earlier in his book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture. The book, published in 1831, addressed best practices for the cultivation of trees for shipbuilding, but also expanded on his concept of natural selection.

“There is a law universal in nature, tending to render every reproductive being the best possibly suited to its condition that its kind, or that organized matter, is susceptible of, which appears intended to model the physical and mental or instinctive powers, to their highest perfection, and to continue them so. This law sustains the lion in his strength, the hare in her swiftness, and the fox in his wiles.” (Matthew, 1831: 364)

In 1860, Matthew wrote to point out the parallels with his prior work, several months after the publication of On the origin of species. Darwin publically wrote in 1860 “I freely acknowledge that Mr. Matthew has anticipated by many years the explanation which I have offered of the origin of species”, while Wallace wrote publically in 1879 of “how fully and clearly Mr. Matthew apprehended the theory of natural selection, as well as the existence of more obscure laws of evolution, many years in advance of Mr. Darwin and myself”, and further declared Matthew to be “one of the most original thinkers of the first half of the 19th century”. However, both asserted their formulations were independent of Matthew’s.

Even if Matthew did not influence Darwin and Wallace, his writings provide a valuable third point of reference on the notion of macroevolution by natural selection, argues the paper’s author, Dr Michael Weale. Dr Weale has created a public website to act as an online repository of the writings by Patrick Matthew, including some of his lesser-known work.

Dr Michael Weale, from the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at King’s College London, said: ‘Whilst Darwin and Wallace both deserve recognition for their work, Matthew, the outsider who deduced his idea as part of a grand scheme of a purposeful universe, is the overlooked third man in the story. Matthew’s story is an object lesson in the perils of low-impact publishing. Despite its brevity, and to some extent because of it, Matthew’s work merits our renewed attention.’

Explore further: Darwin’s finches highlight the unity of all life

More information: ‘Patrick Matthew’s Law of Natural Selection’ by Michael Weale is published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society and can be accessed here.

From Wikipedia:

Matthew’s idea on society were radical for their times. Although he was a landowner, he was involved with the Chartist movement, and argued that institutions of “hereditary nobility” were detrimental to society. It has been suggested that these views worked against acceptance of his theory of natural selection, being politically incorrect at the time (see Barker, 2001).

Fossils collected by Charles Darwin: here.

Alfred Wallace’s South American butterflies rediscovered by English schoolgirl

This video is called Alfred Russel Wallace Pt1.

From the BBC:

10 September 2013 Last updated at 02:03 GMT

‘Priceless’ butterflies found at Oxford museum

By Sean Coughlan, BBC News education correspondent

An A-level student on work experience at an Oxford museum has found rare examples of butterflies lost since the 19th Century.

Athena Martin with some of the butterflies in the collection

Athena Martin, aged 17, has found butterfly specimens described as “priceless” by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

They had been brought back from South America by a Victorian naturalist.

Many of the butterflies were thought lost at sea in the 1850s.

Ms Martin’s discoveries came during the summer when she was taking part in a science-related work experience project.

Lost at sea

The school girl, who wants to study zoology at university, found and identified butterflies collected by the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

They had been buried away in more than 3,000 separate drawers of butterflies at the museum.

Painstakingly going through the collection turned up more than 300 of Wallace’s butterflies.

The biggest find made by the work experience student was a butterfly called Dismorphia, brought from the Amazon and which had remained undiscovered and unacknowledged within the museum since the end of the 19th Century.

The confusion over Wallace’s collection had been caused by a fire breaking out on his ship when he was bringing back specimens from South America in 1852 – and it had been believed that most of his butterfly collection had been lost.

“The re-discovered Amazonian specimen in particular is a significant find in terms of the history of science and natural history collecting in the 19th Century,” says Dr James Hogan of the Hope Entomological Collections, which are based at the museum.

Dutch book on Wallace: here.

Wallace and evolution at London Natural History Museum

This video is called Operation Wallacea Indonesia forest research assistant.

By Theo Arrowsmith in Britain:

Wallace – evolution’s man of mystery

Sunday 26 May 2013

If you visit London’s Natural History Museum you will see gracing the main staircase an imposing statue of the legendary naturalist Charles Darwin.

But what you might not notice, off to the left, is a far less prominent, and only recently installed, portrait of natural selection’s often forgotten co-discoverer, Alfred Russel Wallace.

Wallace hailed from modest circumstances and left school at age 14 to work as an apprentice railway surveyor.

Throughout his life he was always short of funds, financing his researches by collecting exotic species from abroad and sending them home to paying collectors.

He also variously worked grading government examinations, writing scientific papers for modest sums and was paid by Darwin to help edit some of his own work.

By contrast the young Darwin, from a privileged background, was able to dither about whether to enter the clergy or pursue some other comfortable profession.

In fact, the offer of a berth on HMS Beagle most probably rescued him from a life of relative idleness.

Darwin went on to become extremely wealthy by careful dealing in the stocks and shares of the developing railway system.

None of this should be seen as reducing Darwin’s status as a scientist, nor as a humanitarian – he was anti-slavery and anti-racist – but out of the pair Wallace is arguably the more intriguing.

Not only did he discover the mechanism of evolutionary change, he was a prominent advocate of the socialist ideas that were then occupying the thoughts of a German economist named Karl Marx and English mill-owner Robert Owen and also campaigned for the public ownership of land.

So this year’s celebrations of the centenary of Wallace’s death are not to be missed.

A team of enthusiasts and scientists are running a programme of lectures and events centred around the Natural History Museum, but also incorporating a range of venues across the country.

A talk on June 6 at the museum is the next opportunity to discover more about this great thinker.

This fifth talk, titled Making Livings: Why Darwin’s and Wallace’s Theories Were Worlds Apart, will “explore how different the Victorian naturalists … were in their socio-economic backgrounds and in their thinking about evolution.”

The speaker will be Professor James Moore, who coauthored Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery And The Quest For Human Origins and has an interesting academic background, with degrees in science, divinity and history.

Even comedian Bill Bailey has been getting involved in the centenary project, describing Wallace as “the greatest field naturalist of the 19th century – perhaps ever.”

Indeed, he is such a fan that he produced a pair of recent TV programmes on the scientist, in which he points out that “a huge swathe of Indonesia,” where Wallace carried out much of his research, “is named after the great man himself” – the 350,000 square kilometres of Wallacea.

To date, it seems that Indonesia has more respect for this evolutionary titan than has his homeland.

Admission to the Natural History Museum talk is free, but seats must be booked via the museum’s website at www.nhm.ac.uk.

Evolution biologist Alfred Russel Wallace

This video is about Redmond O’Hanlon, speaking about Alfred Russel Wallace.

By John Green in Britain:

Out of the shadows of history

Friday 22 March 2013

This year sees the centenary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace, marked by a series of events at museums around the country.

Wallace was, simultaneously with Darwin, the discoverer of evolution due to natural selection – but history has obscured him under Darwin’s immense shadow.

Wallace came from a lower middle-class background. His father was a provincial solicitor, at that time a lowly occupation. He left school at 14 to work as an apprentice railway surveyor with his brother William in order to supplement the family income.

While working on the railways Wallace talked of being forced to travel in the “wretched third-class” carriages where passengers in open trucks were transported like cattle.

After one such journey with his brother William they took cheap lodgings in a damp room in Bristol, which led to his brother dying of pneumonia.

Wallace’s mental development was grounded in the provincial, industrialising countryside, where he would mix with weavers, factory inspectors, railway workers and farm labourers.

He was completely self-educated in the sciences and became an early socialist, greatly influenced by lectures he heard in the Hall of Science in Tottenham Court Road given by Robert Owen.

“I have always looked upon Owen as my first teacher in the philosophy of human nature and my first guide through the labyrinth of social science.”

He, like Owen, took a prominently anti-Malthusian line – put crudely, Malthus argued that disease and early death were necessary among the working masses to keep the population down.

Although his family was “old-fashioned Church of England” Wallace very soon shed all shreds of religiosity, developing advanced secular views on society and human nature.

Ironically, because of his radical political views Wallace was from the outset a more likely candidate than Darwin to come up with such a radical hypothesis as evolution.

But he undoubtedly lacked the self-confidence that comes with a public-school education and affluence.

In 1847 Bates and Wallace discussed travelling abroad and earning their living collecting specimens along the River Amazon.

Unlike Darwin, who was easily able to organise and finance his own long voyage on the Beagle, Wallace and Bates had to beg money for their trip. The mania of Victorians for collecting natural history specimens gave them the opportunity.

In 1848 the pair were able to sail for Brazil, where they spent several years enduring disease, hardship and catastrophe.

Their experiences were physically as far removed from Darwin’s relaxed and comfortable Beagle voyage as could be imagined. Unfortunately Wallace’s return voyage ended in shipwreck and the loss of all his meticulously recorded notes and arduously collected specimens.

In 1853, despite vowing never again to return to sea, Wallace again set sail, this time for Malaysia, with the same aims as before in the Amazon.

He also wished to investigate local tribes and pursue his ideas on human origins. His readings of the anonymously published book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation had convinced him that humans were descended from apes, possibly from an orang-utan-like animal as found in Malaysia.

Before he left he dispatched a short theoretical paper that Darwin and his friends Edward Blyth and the renowned geologist Charles Lyell read, in which he speculated about how varieties of species arise and how geography was key in determining origins.

His sponsors felt he should not waste his time with such pointless speculation and concentrate on obtaining specimens for their collections.

However, Darwin wrote him a warm and encouraging letter complimenting him on his paper. In 1858, after a bad bout of malaria, Wallace wrote another paper setting out for the first time his basic idea of natural selection and evolutionary development. He was completely unaware that Darwin had been secretly working along similar lines.

He sent it to Darwin and asked the latter to forward it to Lyell. The way his seminal paper overlapped with Darwin’s thinking on the same issue was remarkable.

Darwin had also collected a mass of fascinating data during his trip on the Beagle and through diligent correspondence with other naturalists was developing his own draft ideas of evolution.

Wallace’s paper, arriving out of the blue, hit him like a thunderbolt. He’d fleetingly met and then corresponded with Wallace but the two men hardly knew each other.

Darwin was aghast and shattered that someone had apparently beaten him to it. The idea of “losing” the letter or ignoring it crossed his mind – but in the end he followed the honourable road and forwarded it to his friend, the renowned geologist Lyell, as Wallace had requested.

Darwin was, in fact, about to write to Wallace congratulating him and had almost decided to throw in the towel on his own projected publication, but was dissuaded from doing so by botanist Joseph Hooker and Lyell.

Darwin felt he no longer had the right to publish his own views before Wallace’s now he had read the latter’s paper. But Hooker and Lyell persuaded him to publish a paper of his own alongside Wallace’s in the Journal of the Linnaean Society.

As he was a renowned fellow of the society, Lyell and Hooker knew Darwin’s piece would take precedence over that of the “mere collector” Wallace, who lacked standing in scientific circles.

Wallace, unlike Darwin, had no independent means, was not a member of the gentry nor was he university educated.

Darwin and his colleagues viewed Wallace as a useful purveyor of information and specimens, but would not have considered him a philosopher or thinker on their own level. That was partly why Wallace’s paper hit them with such force.

Neither paper caused even a ripple of excitement or outrage at the time of publication, but Darwin, realising the danger to his own work if Wallace developed his ideas further, put his head down and worked like a man possessed to finish and publish his later world-renowned On the Origin of Species a year later in 1859.

This was the book that shook the world. Priests began apoplectically raging from their pulpits, fine ladies had fainting fits at the idea of being related to monkeys and the popular papers never tired of ridiculing the idea of evolution as if a new flat-earth theory were being propounded.

These historical events demonstrate how class invariably determine an individual’s fortune and later historical status.

The strictly stratified Victorian society left Wallace little chance of entering the hallowed halls of the elite scientific community of which Darwin was already a respected member.

However, after his return from his travels and with generous support from Darwin, he did eventually gain acceptance, becoming a revered member of those circles.

Wallace had to establish his reputation the hard way, but humble and modest as ever he subsequently accepted Darwin’s pre-eminence and his own secondary role in developing the theory of evolution. Undoubtedly Wallace deserves more prominence than history has granted him.

A display to commemorate the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace’s death opened this week at the archives reading room at Kew Gardens and runs until May 20. For more information about further commemorative events around the country visit the Natural History Museum website (www.nhm.ac.uk).

Wallace, Darwin and evolution

This video is called 2012 The Catalyst – Did Darwin steal theory of evolution from Wallace?

By Theo Arrowsmith in Britain:

Credit where it’s due

Sunday 20 January 2013

Hardly has the dust settled from the Darwin bicentenary in 2009 than we’re into another celebration of evolutionary science.

This year will see a programme of free lectures at the Natural History Museum in London under the overall title of “Wallace 100.”

It will culminate on November 7, the centenary of the death of the much-neglected Alfred Russel Wallace.

The inaugural lecture on February 7 is intriguingly titled Wallace and the Joy of Sects, Rewriting the Bible as a Scientific Text.

It will be given by popular biologist Professor Steve Jones.

The full programme may be obtained by inquiry at the museum. Although the lectures in the Wallace 100 series are free, tickets must be pre-booked online.

The name of Wallace deserves to be as well known as that of Darwin – despite the latter’s ironically godlike statue on the main staircase of the Natural History Museum.

One or two facts about the two men might explain this partial occlusion of one and the remarkable prominence of the other.

Had Darwin not enlisted as a naturalist on the trans-global survey ship HMS Beagle, he would most probably have “taken holy orders.”

As it happened, Captain Fitz­roy of the Beagle was a strict disciplinarian – very necessary in the Royal Navy in those times – but also utterly convinced of the literal truth of the Bible, especially of Genesis.

The necessary proximity of Darwin the developing scientist and questioner to a Fitzroy who had all the (Biblical) “answers” already led, for Darwin, to conflicted ideas and his development as one of the first dialectical materialists. Most histories however portray a respectful relationship between the two men.

On his return Darwin spent the next 40 years in active research and publication.

But two lesser-known facts stand out from his life.

Firstly, Darwin suffered from a continuing and chronic illness, involving nausea, vomiting and frequent bed-bound periods, due to which he was often unable to work.

Rather more satisfactory was the fact that his relatively secure financial background enabled him to speculate in shares in the then growing railway system.

Care and good luck with his investments resulted in Darwin amassing a fortune of £13 million – as the Morning Star pointed out on August 11 2010 – by the time of his death in 1882.

Understandably Victorian, ie capitalist, society would find itself in conflict with the revolutionary implications of Darwin’s evolutionary ideas.

But Darwin himself was far from the revolutionary conclusions of his great contemporary Karl Marx.

In the book Darwin’s Blind Spot Ryan explains that “at the time the Origin (of Species) was published, imperialism was the dominant … ethos in Europe … and the Britain in which Darwin lived as a comfortable country squire was the greatest imperial power since the Roman empire.”

At that time, “Darwinism was in perfect harmony with imperialism … the national expression of the evolutionary paradigm … the just reward for quality and struggle … Darwin eschewed any extension of his views to politics (but) his successors had no hesitation in carrying his ideas into more controversial areas.”

From Ryan’s insight we may understand how Darwin’s work has been misused by later ideologists – and misunderstood by well-meaning admirers.

Rather more sinister is the eclipse of that other great evolutionary scientist Wallace.

Let us hope that the Natural History Museum’s programme will right this historic wrong.

In a 2008 collection of essays edited by a science librarian from the US and a senior curator from the museum Wallace’s intellectual legacy is examined.

Natural Selection and Beyond describes Wallace as the “co-discoverer, independently of Charles Darwin, of evolution by natural selection.”

What is beyond doubt is that, by his memoir sent from the Malay archipelago to Darwin in 1858, Wallace was instrumental in kick-starting the Linnaean Society’s meeting on evolution.

If that is true, why has history not brought us the name of Wallace as prominently as that of Darwin?

Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that Wallace was an advocate of socialism at a time when the imperialist ethos referred to above by Ryan was already being questioned by Marx and similar thinkers and activists.

Certainly Wallace later became involved in the then fashionable craze for spiritualism.

But his achievements in the promulgation of the science of evolution should not be ignored. Hopefully this year’s series of lectures will greatly aid in establishing another great scientist’s reputation.

Scientists have proved one of Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution for the first time — nearly 140 years after his death. Researchers discovered mammal subspecies play a more important role in evolution than previously thought. Her research could now be used to predict which species conservationists should focus on protecting: here.

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.