Welcome to the Wallace100 blog! One of its main functions is to keep readers up-to-date with the many exciting Wallace-related activities which are being planned by the Natural History Museum and others around the world to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death in 2013. The blog will also have posts on a diverse array of other Wallace-related things, ranging from anecdotes about Wallace's life, to stories about notable natural history specimens he collected during his epic eight year expedition to the Malay Archipelago (i.e. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia).
Since I will probably be writing most of the posts for this blog, I guess I should introduce myself. I am the chap in the middle in the photo below. You may recognise the other two Wallace aficionados with me - Sir David Attenborough on the left, and comedian (and natural historian!) Bill Bailey on the right. Sir David is the Patron of the Wallace Correspondence Project of which I am Director, and Bill is the Patron of the Wallace Memorial Fund of which I am Chairman.
I spend 80% of my time at the Museum working as the Curator of Orthopteroidea (i.e. looking after the huge national research collection of cockroaches, grasshoppers and related insects), and 20% of my time working on the Wallace Correspondence Project. If for some reason you would like more information about me then see my out-of-date (must get that changed!) online CV here.
David Attenborough (left), George Beccaloni (centre) & Bill Bailey (right) in the Central Hall of the Natural History Museum, London. Photo. by Jan Beccaloni.
My interest in Wallace started when I was working on my PhD in the early 1990's (I was based here at the Museum in the now demolished old Entomology building). One of the subjects I studied was the evolution of mimicry in glasswing butterflies - a group which lives in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. Reading about the theories which have been proposed to explain the function and evolution of animal colours I was struck by how great a contribution Wallace made to this field. I then discovered that he was the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of nothing less than the theory of evolution by natural selection - a fact that even many biologists don't seem to know!
From that point I was hooked and wanted to learn as much as I could about his life and work, and more than 20 years later I am still learning fascinating things about him all the time. Unfortunately Wallace has been relatively neglected by historians of science and no comprehensive biography about him has been written so far. Hopefully a lot more people will become interested in him as a result of the 2013 Wallace year.
If you want to find out more about Wallace then check out the websites mentioned above, plus the following:
- Wallace's 1905 autobiography (My Life; A Record of Events and Opinions. 2 volumes. Chapman & Hall, Ltd., London [electronic versions are available free on the Web])
- Peter Raby's 2001 biography (Alfred Russel Wallace, A Life. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ; Chatto & Windus: London [you'll have to buy this!])
- The book I co-authored with Charles Smith (Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace. Oxford University Press: Oxford, U.K.; also see http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199239177.do
- The Wallace Wikipedia page
- Charles Smith's 'Wallace Page' Website
- Wallace's Facebook page
- Wallace's Twitter account