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Report on Darwinism lectures

Report on Darwinism lectures

Catalogue number: WP1/5/21(1)

Press cutting reporting on lectures at University College in Toronto, Wallace's popularity and an outline of his work, undated, probably March 1887.

Wallace presented two lectures in Toronto at University College. His topics were Darwinism and The Origin and Use of Colour in Nature. This press cutting (from an unnamed newspaper) provides an insight into Wallace's popularity and celebrity. 'Dr. Wallace is unquestionably the best living authority on the Darwinian theory, as he is well known to have thought it out independently for himself, and to have hastened by his own essays the publication of Darwin's great book'. Wallace's achievements were obviously widely known in 1887, yet after his death he fell into obscurity.

The report mentions a differing of opinion between Wallace and Darwin. 'One of his essays is of special interest, which contends that there is ample evidence to show that natural selection cannot have brought about the exceptional position of man in creation, but that the development of man has been guided by a Supreme intelligence in a definite direction and for a special purpose.' Although Wallace thought natural selection could not explain human intelligence, he remained an ardent supporter of Darwinism. Wallace considered himself as neither religious nor a creationist.

The report goes on to give a summary of Wallace's scientific contributions, specifically on natural selection. It concludes with a revealing comment on the relationship between Darwin and Wallace and the matter of priority for making their ideas on natural selection public. 'The elder naturalist [Darwin] never strove for a moment to press his own claim to priority against the younger [Wallace]. The younger, with singular generosity and courtesy, waived his own claim to divide the honours of discovery in favour of the elder.'

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Wallace Letters Online

Letter to Alfred Russel Wallace from the Royal Society, about his Darwin Medal award

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