HomeNature and WildlifeAlfred Wallace, a naturalist who lived for 200 years under Darwin's shadow

Alfred Wallace, a naturalist who lived for 200 years under Darwin’s shadow


The theory of evolution doesn’t just rhyme with Darwin’s. The principle of natural selection was discovered together with another British naturalist: Alfred Russell Wallace, born two hundred years ago and somewhat forgotten since then, France Press reported.

In 1858, while collecting hundreds of animal specimens on the islands of the Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s observations, coupled with a bout of malaria, prompted what he would later refer to as an “intuition.”

This intelligent, self-taught individual has a firm grasp on how species evolve. Only the most ecologically adapted individuals within a specific territory survive and breed, passing on their superior features to their offspring.
The idea, described by Cyril Langlois of the Ecole Supérieur de Lyon as “a stroke of genius,” Wallace shared with his compatriot Charles Darwin, sending him his paper.

Darwin found in it the essence of his own theory, which he had been perfecting for 20 years without publishing anything, and was “deeply upset by it,” says Langlois.

At the same time, a joint presentation and publication of their work on natural selection were organised in London. Both men are absent, Wallace doesn’t even know, but their names are placed next to each other.
Alfred Russell Wallace, a future adventurer, collector, naturalist, geographer, and anthropologist, was born in Wales to a low-income family on January 8, 1823.

Young Wallace, who was forced to drop out of school at age 14, attended evening classes and specialised readings. They will have the 25-year-old embarked on a journey to the Amazon, his goal being to map and collect butterflies, insects or birds.

Wallace canoed up the Rio Negro, farther than any other European, curious about everything, collecting mysterious specimens and filling dozens of notebooks. On his way back to England in 1852, his ship sank after a fire broke out.

Despite the loss of his collection, Alfred Wallace would publish two books dedicated to his expeditions and set off again in 1854, this time for Asia, where he travelled for eight years.

Charles Darwin wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’, a revolutionary work, in 1859 on the opposite side of the globe, under pressure from time (and Wallace’s communication).

The first print run (1,250 copies) sold out the same day, as did the second.

Darwin was more prominent than Wallace, but the two men admired one another. Wallace became one of the most prominent Darwinism advocates.

Nonetheless, he will be remembered as one of the most renowned British scientists of his era, especially for his research on the Malay Archipelago, from where he gathered over 125,000 specimens of insects, birds, and mammals in 1862. In Europe, the majority have yet to be discovered.

And although one eventually overshadowed the other, the Darwin-Wallace Medal still rewards researchers who advance evolutionary biology.

Frontier India News Network
Frontier India News Networkhttps://frontierindia.com/briefs
Frontier India News Network is the in-house news collection and distribution agency.


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