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November 2012
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Wallace's genealogy

Posted by George Beccaloni Nov 15, 2012

For some time I have been trying to piece together a detailed genealogy of Alfred Russel Wallace and his close family and assemble a collection of photos of as many of them as possible. Given that 'Wallace year' is fast approaching and others may be interested in this information too for publications, exhibitions etc, I decided to update the Wallace genealogy page on the Wallace Memorial fund's website and link the names of people to images of them, where these are available. Unfortunately no images are available of 5 of Wallace's brothers and sisters, although this actually not surprising as they all died before the days of cheap commercial photography.

 

As can be seen from what I have managed to compile so far, there is still a fair amount of information missing, especially for Wallace's more distant relatives. One or two of these people were quite famous during their lifetimes, such as his "...mother's grandfather, who died in 1797, aged 80, was for many years an alderman, and twice Mayor of Hertford (in 1773 and 1779), as stated in the records of the borough. He was buried in St. Andrew's churchyard." (quoted from Wallace's autobiography My Life). Wallace didn't give his name and I have not managed to find any information about him. I even went to the graveyard of St. Andrew's church with Wallace historian Charles Smith, in September last year and tried to find his grave, with no luck. We did, however, find the grave of Wallace's maternal grandfather John Greenell (1747 - 15 July 1824) and his second wife Rebecca - see below.

CharlesSmithAtGraveOfJohnGreenell.jpgCharles Smith beside the grave of John Greenell.
Copyright Janet Beccaloni

GraveOfJohnGreenell.jpg

Close-up of the grave. The inscription reads: "Sacred to the memory of John Greenell, Esq. Who was 70 years an Inhabitant of this Town and died on the 15th Day of July 1824 in the 79th year of his Age, having uniformly practised every Christian Virtue." Copyright Janet Beccaloni.

 

In his autobiography, My Life, Wallace recounts the family belief that they were descended on the male side from the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace. He says "As all the Wallaces of Scotland are held to be various branches of the one family of the hero Sir William Wallace, we have always considered ourselves to be descended from that famous stock; and this view is supported by the fact that our family crest was said to be an ostrich's head with a horseshoe in its mouth, and this crest belongs, according to Burke's "Peerage," to Craigie-Wallace, one of the branches of the patriot's family." It would be very exciting indeed if one were able to prove this distinguished ancestry, but I very much doubt it will be possible!

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Apart from this blog (which you obviously know about!) the best place to go to find recent Wallace-related articles, blog posts, news items etc is the Alfred Russel Wallace Facebook page. This page lists all recent material about Wallace which I have found on the Web and which I personally think is interesting or important. The one thing generally NOT listed are Wallace-related events, which are instead listed on the NHM's Wallace100 Events Diary.

 

The Wallace Memorial Fund's Wallace News Blog is also another place to look, as is the automated news aggregator on the bottom left of the Wallace Fund's website (scroll down the page). The latter lists all new Wallace-related pages as they appear on the Web, apart from most blog posts which for some reason aren't picked up. So if you don't trust my selection on the Facebook page then check the news aggregator on a regular basis.

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Locked away in a bank vault for more than 40 years, Wallace's unique gold edition of the Darwin-Wallace medal has recently been taken out and photographed in colour for the first time.

D_W_Medal.Wallace.Copyrighted.jpg

D_W_Medal.Darwin.Copyrighted.jpg

The two sides of Wallace's solid gold copy of the Darwin-Wallace medal.

 

The Darwin-Wallace medal

 

To honour his independent discovery of evolution by natural selection, Wallace was awarded with probably every important medal it was possible for a biologist to receive in Britain at that time. These included the Darwin–Wallace and Linnean Gold Medals of the Linnean Society of London; the Copley, Darwin and Royal Medals of the Royal Society (Britain's premier scientific body); and the Order of Merit (awarded by the ruling Monarch as the highest civilian honour of Great Britain). Of these the Darwin-Wallace medal is special, both because it features a portrait of Wallace, and because it was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reading of the Darwin-Wallace paper on natural selection at the Linnean Society on the 1st July 1858.

 

The 1908 celebration

 

On the 1st July 1908 a grand event, organised by the Linnean Society, commemorated the public reading of the Darwin-Wallace paper on natural selection, which had taken place at a meeting of the Society 50 years before. Invitations to this event "..were sent to the Fellows, Foreign Members and Associates, certain distinguished naturalists, every University in the United Kingdom, and Societies publishing on subjects of biology." Wallace himself attended.

 

"The PRESIDENT, in welcoming the delegates and guests, said:—

 

We are met together to-day to celebrate what is without doubt the greatest event in the history of our Society since its foundation. Nor is it easy to conceive the possibility in the future of any second revolution of Biological thought so momentous as that which was started 50 years ago by the reading of the joint papers of Mr. Darwin and Dr. Wallace, "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection,"...

 

Darwin and Wallace not only freed us from the dogma of Special Creation, a dogma which we now find it difficult to conceive of as once seriously held "Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus,"—they afforded a natural explanation of the marvellous indications of Design which had been the great strength of the old doctrine..."

At the ceremony 7 prominent biologists of the day were presented with the newly created Darwin-Wallace medal. Wallace was awarded with the only gold version of the medal ever made, whilst the other six received silver versions.

 

"In presenting the gold medal the President said:-

 

Dr. ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE, We rejoice that we are so happy as to have with us to-day the survivor of the two great naturalists whose crowning work we are here to commemorate.

 

Your brilliant work, in Natural History and Geography, and as one of the founders of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, is universally honoured and has often received public recognition, as in the awards of the Darwin and Royal Medals of the Royal Society, and of our own Medal in 1892.

 

To-day, in asking you to accept the first Darwin-Wallace Medal, we are offering you of your own, for it is you, equally with your great colleague, who created the occasion which we celebrate."

The publication from which the above quotes are taken can be read here.

 

Recipients of the medal

 

Silver versions of the Darwin-Wallace medal were awarded to 6 evolutionary biologists on the 1st July 1908 and to 20 recipients on the 1st July 1958 to commemorate the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the reading of the Darwin-Wallace paper.

 

The medal was not awarded on the 150th anniversary of the reading of the papers on 1st July 2008, as the Linnean Society decided to break with tradition and instead award it (to 13 recipients) on 12th February 2009, Darwin's 200th birthday. From 2010 the Society has awarded the medal annually in May to just a single evolutionary biologist. For a list of recipients of the medal see Wikipedia.

 

History of the medal

 

The Darwin-Wallace medal was designed in 1906 by the well known medal maker Frank Bowcher (1864-1938) and the portrait of Wallace he sculpted is known to have been based on a photograph of Wallace. The image he used was probably the one below, judging by details of Wallace's hair (to see all known photos of Wallace click here). It is curious that he decided to omit Wallace's glasses.

WMF56.113. From A Great Hertfordian.Cropped.JPGA. R. Wallace by Florence Chant.
© Scan by A. R. Wallace Memorial Fund & G. W. Beccaloni.

 

The Darwin-Wallace medals which were awarded from 1908 to 2009 were all silver, apart from Wallace's unique gold one, and I am unsure what material has been used since then. Curiously bronze copies of the 1908 and 1958 medals (the medals are dated) occasionally turn up for sale and I have discovered that these are replicas which were sold by the Linnean Society (in 1959 the Society was selling them for 35s each).

 

Interestingly, the British Museum have a "plaster model for the obverse of the Linnean Society's Darwin-Wallace medal, showing the "Bust of Alfred Russell [sic] Wallace to front... Diameter 174 mm, thickness 16 mm", which they purchased in 2004. It is curious that it is so large as the real medal is 48mm in diameter. I guess it was a stage in the medal making process.

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What is Wallace100?w100_orange.SMALL.jpg


Wallace100 is an informal international association of organisations with projects that are designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wallace’s death in 2013. Its main purpose is to publicise the anniversary and the events which are being planned to commemorate it.

 

The Museum has set up an events page where all such projects can be listed. To have your event included and to obtain copies of the Wallace100 logo please contact me (i.e. George Beccaloni). Even if you do not have a project, we would be grateful if you could help to publicise Wallace100 by including the logo on your website and linking to the events calendar.

 

By co-ordinating our efforts and working together where possible, we will ensure that 2013 is the biggest and best celebration of Wallace's life and work ever seen!

 

The Museum will be launching its Wallace100 projects on 24 January 2013. Wallace Letters Online, the Web version of the Wallace Correspondence Project's catalogue of letters to and from Wallace, will also be officially launched on that date.

 

The Wallace100 logo

 

The logo features three males of Wallace's golden birdwing butterfly and its orange colour is similar to that of the butterfly. The logo is available in two different sizes and backgrounds and there is also a black version which might look better on some websites.

Wallace's golden birdwing butterfly

 

Wallace's golden birdwing butterfly was chosen for the logo because it is probably the most famous of the one hundred and thirty species and subspecies of south-east Asian butterflies which Wallace named. Its scientific name is Ornithoptera croesus - Crösus being a mythological king famed for his wealth.

 

Wallace caught the first male specimen of this magnificent butterfly in 1859 whilst on the Indonesian island of Batchian (Bacan), and the rapturous account he gave of its capture has since become legendary:

 

"I found it to be as I had expected, a perfectly new and most magnificent species, and one of the most gorgeously coloured butterflies in the world. Fine specimens of the male are more than seven inches across the wings, which are velvety black and fiery orange, the latter colour replacing the green of the allied species. The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable, and none but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when I at length captured it. On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause." (Wallace, 1869. The Malay Archipelago.)

 

A few years ago I did some detective work and I am pretty sure that I managed to find the very specimen that Wallace got so excited about. It was amongst dozens of other specimens of this species (some collected by Wallace) in the NHM butterfly collection and I was able to pin-point it because of certain information on the label that Wallace had pinned beneath it. Curiously it has a faint fingerprint on each of its forewings - possibly those of Wallace himself, when, trembling, he took it out of his net.

 

I told this story to a poet friend and she wrote a wonderful poem about it which was later published in her book Batu-Angas, Envisioning Nature with Alfred Russel Wallace.

 

Wallaces_croesus_specimen.jpg

Ornithoptera croesus croesus collected by Wallace in 1859. This is probably the first male he caught: the one which gave him such a headache! © The Natural History Museum, London.
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A beautiful, small, hand-printed and hand-bound book is currently being produced by Tim Preston to mark next year's Alfred Russel Wallace anniversary. Tim's day job is in magazine publishing, and his hobby is also publishing - using a mechanical Albion hand printing press which dates from the 1870's (see photo below). Once the pages have been printed Tim will glue in all the illustrations and the books will then be professionally hand bound in cloth. Only 100 individually numbered copies will be produced and almost half have been reserved already. If you would like to reserve a copy then please contact Tim at timpress@me.com. Tim estimates that they will cost only about £50 GBP each - a bargain for a book that is entirely produced by hand!

 

Not only is the book special because of how it is being produced, but it will be of interest to scholars since all the letters featured in it have been carefully transcribed by Tim from the original manuscripts. This is the first time that accurate copies of all the original surviving correspondence relating to the publication of Wallace's Ternate essay has been published together in this way.

 

Another good reason to buy a copy is that Tim has kindly offered to give all profits from sales of the book to the Wallace Memorial Fund as a contribution to its campaign to raise money for a life-size bronze statue of Wallace for the Museum. The statue campaign needs all the help it can get as the deadline for fundraising is the end of January 2013, and there is still a massive £38,000 which needs to be found!

 

To advertise the book Tim has produced a postcard, the front and back of which are reproduced below.

 

LFT_photo_Advert.SMALL.jpgFront of the 'postcard'

 

LFT_text_Advert.SMALL.jpgBack of the 'postcard

 

AlbionPress.Small.jpg

Tim's ancient Albion printing press


WallacesBee.Small.jpg

Wallace's giant bee - a woodcut illustration for the book