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Press release

Wallace's treasures go online

'Lost treasures' which belonged to Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the process of natural selection, are online for the first time through the Natural History Museum's website. The newly digitised items give a rare and personal insight into Wallace's life as a naturalist, collector, family man, spiritualist, social commentator and great thinker. Explore the Wallace Collection Online at

The website brings together a remarkable selection of letters, notes, articles and even some of the insect specimens Wallace collected on his travels. Wallace travelled for over a decade in South America and South-East Asia, searching for clues into the mechanism of evolution and new species to bring home. This online display enables people to delve into the discoveries he made as well as learn more about his life as a collector of natural history specimens in the nineteenth century. Find out how Wallace survived a sinking ship, trekked through rainforests, and made an epic journey across the Malay Archipelago.

'For the first time everyone can have access to the Wallace Collection, a unique and valuable source of information about the life and work of this brilliant scientist,' said George Beccaloni, the Wallace expert at the Natural History Museum. 'Now online, it is possible to explore one of the most important collections of his manuscripts and specimens in the world.'
The Wallace Collection Online includes an education section designed to support students and teachers who are following the Edexcel AS Level History, Philosophy and Ethics of Science (Perspectives on Science) course. The syllabus requires students to use primary source materials to develop their understanding of science. The activities provided through the website link directly to units within the programme of study, focussing on strengthening core skills.
'It is a tremendous resource both to students studying evolution and to those doing research projects in this field,' said John Taylor, Chief Examiner for Edexcel. 'In terms of accessing documents and providing helpful questions it really fits perfectly with the style of material we will be providing in the text books.'

Alfred Russel Wallace was travelling in the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia) when he wrote his famous essay about evolutionary mechanism and sent it to Charles Darwin for comment. Wallace's article plus some of Darwin's unpublished writings on the subject were presented to the Linnean Society of London on 1 July 1858. Their co-authored paper On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties and On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection was published a few months later and preceded Darwin's seminal work On the Origin of Species by one year.


Notes for editors

Winner of the 2006 Independent award for the UK's favourite museum, gallery or heritage attraction at the Museum and Heritage Awards for Excellence, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries.

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