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Lost Wallace treasures found in attic

10 February 2006

An historical collection of insects collected by Alfred Russel Wallace, one of the greatest scientists of all time, has been discovered in an attic.

Beetles in the Wallace collection after restoration

Beetles in the Wallace collection after restoration

Wallace's grandson, Richard, found the collection that had been hidden for decades and he donated them to the Natural History Museum.

Co-discoverer of evolution

Wallace was the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, along with the more famous Charles Darwin. Wallace wrote to Darwin about his own theory and in 1858 their co-authored paper was presented to the Linnean Society - one year before Darwin's influential work The Origin of Species.

Painstaking restoration

The collection of 219 specimens of beetles, bugs and stick-insects was badly damaged by other insect pests. The Natural History Museum's cockroach expert, Dr George Beccaloni, has spent more than 40 hours meticulously restoring them and believes they are now around 90% intact.

Dr George Beccaloni holds insects in the Wallace collection

Dr George Beccaloni holds insects in the Wallace collection

'It was an emotional and rewarding experience for me to restore these forgotten specimens. Considering how fragile they are I am very surprised they survived at all.'

'Wallace was not only one of the world's greatest biologists, but he was also one of the most prolific collectors of natural history specimens of all time.'

Spectacular insects

The specimens were collected in southeast Asia in the 1850s and 1860s and include some of the spectacular species that Wallace discovered such as the huge longhorn beetle Batocera wallacei .

Wallace online

Wallace had sold most of his collections by 1870 to support his family but kept a few of the specimens he was most fond of. This collection will now be added to the rest of the Wallace collection at the Museum, and can be used as reference material, helping to identify some unknown specimens.

'It is incredible that these historically important specimens have now been rediscovered. This collection is a major acquisition for the Natural History Museum and it will be of considerable interest to the many people fascinated by this great man' Dr Beccaloni concluded.

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