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June 11, 2014

Dr Jim Costa

Executive Director, Highlands Biological Station,  Highlands, NC, USA and

Professor of Biology, Western Carolina  University, Cullowhee, NC, USA


Wednesday 30th July 2014 16.30–17.30


Flett Events Theatre - Exhibition Road Entrance


All welcome!


Alfred Russel Wallace was the last of the great Victorian naturalists, and by the end of his long life in 1913 he was also one of the most famous scientists in the world, lauded by leading learned societies, British royalty and US Presidents alike. Against all odds—lacking wealth, formal education, social standing or connections—Wallace became the pre-eminent tropical naturalist of his day. He founded one entirely new discipline—evolutionary biogeography—and, with Darwin, co-founded another: evolutionary biology. Yet today Darwin's name is universally recognised, while Wallace is all but unknown.



In this lecture, Jim traces the independent development of Wallace's and Darwin's evolutionary insights, exploring the fascinating parallels, intersections and departures in their thinking. Drawing on Wallace's 'Species Notebook'  (the most important of Wallace's field notebooks kept during his southeast Asian explorations of the 1850s) he puts Wallace's thinking into a new light in relation to that of his more illustrious colleague. He also examines the ups and downs of Wallace's relationship with Darwin, and critically evaluates the misleading conspiracy theories that Wallace was wronged by Darwin and his circle over credit for the discovery of natural selection. Tracing the arc of Wallace's reputation from meteoric rise in the 19th century to virtual eclipse in the 20th, Costa restores Wallace to his proper place in the limelight with Darwin.


About Jim Costa

Jim’s research ranges from insect social behaviour to the history of evolutionary thinking. As a recent fellow-in-residence at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Germany, Jim completed two books about  Wallace. On the Organic Law of Change (Harvard, 2013) is an annotated transcription of the most important field notebook kept by Wallace during his explorations in southeast Asia, providing new insights into the development of Wallace's evolutionary thinking in the 1850s. In the companion volume Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (Harvard, 2014) Jim analyses Wallace's ideas and arguments about evolution in the notebook period in comparison with those of Darwin, and examines the relationship between these two giants of evolutionary biology.


The annual Wallace Lecture is organised by the NHM’s Wallace Correspondence Project -