Alfred Russel Wallace
(1823-1913)
“A prisoner of scientific parentheses, as in, "the theory of evolution by
natural selection proposed by Charles Darwin (and also by Alfred Russel
Wallace).”’
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Childhood
 Born in Usk, a small town in Wales.
 Eighth of nine children of Thomas and Mary Anne Wallace.
 Father- earned a law degree; never practiced as an attorney.
 Family fell on hard times early in Wallace’s life.
 1836: Wallace forced to withdraw from grammar school at age
13; sent to London to live with older brother, John.
Surveying (1837-1843)
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After a few months in London, Wallace left to become an apprentice
under his oldest brother, William.
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Trained to become a surveyor.
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Learned trades such as map-making, geometry, and trigonometry.
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Learned to be a very keen observer of his surroundings.
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Became fond of the outdoors, particularly in botany and geology.
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Let go by his brother after a period of financial difficulties.
Collegiate School at Leicester
(1843-1845)
• Applied for a teaching position and was hired.
• Taught drafting, surveying, English, and arithmetic.
• Reads Malthus’ “An Essay on the Principle of Population”
• Met Henry Walter Bates, a young naturalist.
• Bates introduced the practice of collecting specimens to
Wallace.
• After reading about the travels of other accomplished naturalists
such as Charles Darwin, Wallace and Bates decided to travel to
the Amazon.
Collegiate School at Leicester
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Exploration of the Amazon
(1848-1852)
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Wallace primary goal in the Amazon was to collect specimens.
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Interested in studying “biological evolution”, an idea introduced by
Robert Chambers in “The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation”
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Aside from collecting, Wallace took notes on the regions geography,
wildlife, and even the inhabitants and their languages.
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On his way back to England, Wallace’s boat caught fire and sank;
taking with it the majority of Wallace’s work in the Amazon.
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Wallace and his crew rescued by a passing cargo ship. Journey across
the Atlantic took nearly three months.
Back in England
• Despite losing most of his specimens and notes from his travels,
Wallace was able to publish two books upon his return to
England.
• “Palm Trees of the Amazon and Their Uses”
• A study on the plant life in the Amazon.
• “A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro”
• An account of Wallace’s four years in South America
• Correspondence with Charles Darwin.
Travel in the East Indies
(1854-1862)
• Malay Archipelago: modern day Malaysia and Indonesia
• Traveled almost 14,000 miles on a number of expeditions in the
region; visited every island in the archipelago at least once.
• Collected over 125,000 specimens, including around a thousand
that had never been discovered before.
• “Rhacophorus nigropalmatus”- Wallace’s flying-frog
• “The Malay Archipelago” (1869): dedicated to Darwin.
Wallace’s Flying Frog
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www.itsnature.org/.../wallaces-frog/
Discoveries
• Founder of biogeography
• Recognized the six great biogeographical regions on Earth.
• “Wallace Line”: imaginary line separating Asia and Australia
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Natural Selection
• Makes a connection between Malthus’ ideas on population
growth and evolution.
• “Survival of the fittest”: most fit organisms survive and pass their
genes onto future generations.
• “On the Tendencies of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the
Original Type” (1858): sent to Darwin
• Lyell and Hooker present Wallace’s essay along with some of
Darwin’s writings at the Linnaen Society on July 1, 1858.
Darwin vs. Wallace
• Darwin- “Natural Selection”
• Wallace- “Survival of the Fittest”, “Adaptation”
• Darwin considered sexual selection as a separate phenomenon;
Wallace believed it was a form of natural selection.
• Darwin believed in the inheritance of acquired traits
• Wallace rejected Lamarck’s idea
• Darwin stressed that competition was the cause of natural
selection.
• Wallace emphasized that environmental pressures forced
species to adapt to their surroundings.
Spiritualism
• Wallace became a spiritualist in the late 1860’s.
• Human’s “higher attributes” could not have resulted
from natural selection.
• Ideas were strongly rejected by Darwin, but were
endorsed by Darwin’s good friend Charles Lyell.
• Wallace’s scientific reputation was destroyed by his
association with Spiritualism.
Social Activism
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Exposed to the ideas of social reformers such as Robert Owen and
Thomas Paine while living in London early in his life.
•
Social comments in “The Malay Archipelago” drew the attention of
notable economists/socialists such as John Stuart Mill.
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Supported labor movements: argued for overtime pay
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Supporter of women’s suffrage and a paper money system
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Argued against militarism and imperialism
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Anti-vaccination campaign
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Endorsed Socialism
Publications
• Over 750 publications; 22 full-length books
• “The Malay Archipelago” (1869)
• “Darwinism” (1889)
- Defense of natural selection
- Gave priority on the subject to Darwin
- “Wallace effect”: natural selection against hybrids creating two
reproductively isolated populations; speciation
• “Remarks on the Rev. S. Haughton’s Paper on the Bee’s Cell,
and on the Origin of Species”: defense of Origin of Species
More Publications
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•
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“The Geographical Distribution of Animals” (1876)
“Island Life” (1880)
“Tropical Nature, and Other Essays” (1878)
“My Life” (1905)
• “On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New
Species” (1855)
• “On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago” (1863)
• “The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Men Deduced
from the Theory of “Natural Selection”” (1864)
Legacy
•
Greatest explorer-naturalist of the 19th century.
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Co-founder of natural selection
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Founder of biogeography
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Darwin-Wallace Medal: handed out by Linnean Society every 50 years,
beginning in 1908. Recently announced that it would be awarded
annually.
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Overshadowed by Darwin because of Darwin’s social status; Wallace’s
modesty and unpopular social and religious views also played a role.
References
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Russel_Wallace
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http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/index1.htm
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http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Alfred_Russel_Wallace
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http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/history_16
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http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/amphibians/wallace%27s_flying_frog
.htm
• http://www.ucl.ac.uk/taxome/jim/Mim/leicester/collegiate_sch4.ht
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