- Wallace , Alfred Russel
- (1823–1913) British naturalistWallace, who was born at Usk in Wales, received only an elementary schooling before joining an elder brother in the surveying business. In 1844 he became a master at the Collegiate School, Leicester, where he met the entomologist Henry Bates. Wallace persuaded Bates to accompany him on a trip to the Amazon, and they joined a scientific expedition as naturalists in 1848.Wallace published an account of his expedition in his A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and River Negro (1853). In 1854 he traveled to the Malay Archipelago, where he spent eight years and collected over 125,000 specimens, a journey described in hisMalay Archipelago (1869). In this region he noted the marked differences between the Asian and Australian faunas, the former being more advanced than the latter, and proposed a line, still referred to as Wallace's line, separating the two distinct ecological regions. He suggested that Australian animals are more primitive because the Australian continent broke away from Asia before the more advanced Asian animals evolved and thus the marsupials were not overrun and driven to extinction. This observation, together with a reconsideration of Thomas Malthus's essay on population, led him to propose the theory of evolution by natural selection. He wrote an essay entitled On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type, which he sent to Darwin for his opinion. On receipt, Darwin realized this was a summary of his own views and the two papers were jointly presented at a meeting of the Linnaean Society in July 1858.Wallace continued to collect evidence for this evolutionary theory, making an important study on mimicry in the swallowtail butterfly and writing pioneering works on the geographical distribution of animals, including his Geographical Distribution of Animals (2 vols., 1876) and Island Life (1880). He was also an active socialist, having been introduced to the ideas of the reformer Robert Owen at an early age, and he campaigned for land nationalization and women's suffrage.In addition to his scientific and political pursuits, Wallace also participated in many of the more dubious intellectual movements of the 19th century. He supported spiritualism, phrenology, and mesmerism. He testified in 1876 on behalf of Henry Slade, a professional medium, charged on evidence submitted by Ray Lankester with being a “common rogue.” His views on these matters led Wallace to disagree with Darwin on the evolution of man. Man's spiritual essence, Wallace insisted, could not have been produced by natural selection. “I hope you have not murdered our child,” Darwin commented. Wallace also campaigned persistently against the practice of vaccination. He published a pamphlet in 1885 claiming British and US statistics showed it to be “both useless and dangerous.” He testified in a similar manner before a Royal Commission in 1890 and published his evidence in a pamphlet, Vaccination, a Delusion(1895).Throughout his career Wallace never held an academic appointment and after 1848 no appointment of any kind. He hoped to live on the sale of specimens collected during his Amazon and Malay expeditions. Unfortunately, however, the bulk of the Amazonian material was lost at sea, while funds gathered from the sale of his Malay collection were squandered in unwise investments and expensive disputes with builders. Wallace was therefore forced to earn his living by writing and lecturing. The award of a civil list pension of £200 a year from 1880 greatly eased Wallace's financial burdens.Wallace also published a spirited account of his life in My Life(London, 1905).
Scientists. Academic. 2011.