Skip navigation


11 Posts tagged with the birthday_anniversary tag


As many of you will know, the Museum has been celebrating the life and work of Alfred Russel Wallace this year in a big way. As part of the celebrations, the Museum's magazine evolve has published four interesting articles about Wallace, and thanks to an agreement with the magazine's Senior Editor Helen Sturge, and the authors of the articles in question, they can now be downloaded as PDFs.



+ Richard Conniff's article Wallace: species seeker extraordinaire from issue 15 (pictured). Download the PDF.


+ Caroline Catchpole's article Letters of a naturalist: the Wallace Correspondence Project from issue 16. Download the PDF.


+ George Beccaloni's article Wallace immortalised: Museum set to receive Wallace statue 100 years later than planned from issue 17. Download the PDF.


+ Jim Costa's article On the Organic Law of Change: Alfred Russel Wallace and the book that should have been from issue 17. Download the PDF.



Because issue 17 of evolve hasn't even been distributed yet you will get to read the two interesting articles in it before everyone else!


Copies of evolve can also be purchased from the Museum's online shop and are recevied for free by members of the Museum.


When Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to Charles Darwin from a remote island in Indonesia in 1858, he could not possibly have imagined the consequences. Darwin forwarded the letter and its enclosed essay to Sir Charles Lyell with a despairing note: “So all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed.” Wallace had independently solved the problem of the origin of species, and this book relates what happened next.


“The Letter from Ternate” has just been published by Tim Preston of The TimPress. It focusses on the curious and dramatic events surrounding the publication of one of the most important articles in the history of science - Darwin and Wallace's groundbreaking 1858 paper which first proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection. It features new and highly accurate transcriptions of letters to and from Wallace, Darwin, Hooker and Lyell, plus the text of the famous 'joint paper', and Wallace’s Acceptance Speech given after receiving the gold Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society of London in 1908.


The book is special because it is hand printed, hand bound and limited to only 100 copies. Many of the copies were pre-ordered so this is probably your last chance to buy what is a unique memento of the 2013 Wallace centenary. You won't find it in any shop or on Amazon!


Details of the book are as follows:


12.5 x 18.75cm, 96pp, printed in Caslon by hand on a Crown Folio Albion press, on Somerset Book mould-made paper from St Cuthbert's Mill, with an introduction by Dr George Beccaloni, tipped-in wood engravings, map, pictures etc. 100 copies only have been printed, of which 95 are quarter bound in leather with decorated paper covers. The cost is £80 for the quarter leather bound version and it can be ordered from Tim Preston - email


More information about it can be found in an earlier post.


A sample of the book and its contents can be seen below:

Book front.jpg

Title Page.jpg






Join the campaign for a Google Doodle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death. To do so, please send an email to saying that you would really like to see a Wallace-related Doodle on Google's homepage on the date of the anniversary, 7 November 2013. They did a Doodle for Darwin's 200th birthday, so they may consider one for Wallace if enough people ask them!


Ancestor's Trail and Entangled Bank Events are very kindly helping to raise the remaining £25,000 for the statue of Wallace that the Wallace Memorial Fund has commissioned and which is destined for the Museum. It will be unveiled by Sir David Attenborough on the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death - 7 November 2013.


Richard Dawkins has very generously agreed to help with the fundraising, by giving a talk on the 24th August in Bristol as part of this year's Ancestor's Trail. What follows is an excerpt from an interview Richard recently gave about the event:



Evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins talks exclusively to Venue about his forthcoming visit to Bristol to take part in this year's Ancestor's Trail in August. Interview: Tom Phillips.

You’re coming to Bristol in August for the ‘Wallace in Bristol’ event which is, in turn, part of The Ancestor’s Trail. What will you be doing at this event and what else will be happening on the day?


I’ll be one of a number of speakers honouring Wallace, the “other Darwin”. The event is in aid of a good cause, raising a statue of Wallace to join Darwin’s in the Natural History Museum. My talk is called ‘Give the under surface to Mr Wallace, but yield the upper surface to Mr Darwin.’ Enigmatic, yes, intentionally so with a meaning both literal and metaphoric. All will become clear, and I shall leave plenty of time to answer questions at the end.


‘Wallace in Bristol’ is in honour of Alfred Russel Wallace: how important was his work to the study of evolution?


Natural selection is a remarkably simple yet powerful idea, and it is astonishing that it had to wait till the mid nineteenth century before anyone thought of it. And then two English naturalists thought of it at almost the same time. Charles Darwin is well known. Alfred Wallace is often forgotten, but he really did have the same idea as Darwin, at almost the same time, and he expressed it in almost exactly the same terms. Indeed, in some ways Wallace’s way of putting it was even clearer – dare I say even more Darwinian (and, by the way, Wallace coined the word “Darwinism”) than Darwin’s own.


The Ancestors’ Trail is inspired by your book ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ in which you relate the history of evolution using reverse chronology. Why did you choose to adopt that particular strategy?


Forward chronology has a pernicious weakness. It can suggest, if we are not very careful, that evolution is “aiming” at some distant future target. It becomes even more pernicious if that distant target is considered to be humanity. Since we are human, it is entirely pardonable to be especially interested in our own ancestry. I wanted to pander to this, but at the same time the last thing I wanted was to suggest that evolution was aiming towards us, or that we are “evolution’s last word” etc. When you put it like that, a solution leaps to mind. Tell the story of evolution backwards. Begin with humans and work backwards to the origin of life. We could begin with anything, hornet, hippopotamus or hummingbird and work backwards. The end point would be the same in all cases: the origin of life. That is the beauty of working backwards, and that very fact tells us something important about evolution.




Moulding the Statue


Sculptor Anthony Smith writes:


During the past couple of months I have been putting the finishing touches to the clay sculpture of Wallace, and we have now finally finished making its all-important mould. Taking a mould of a large, immovable object, such as a clay statue, is a rather complex operation, but hopefully these photos will help to explain exactly how we went about it...


The front and back of the statue are moulded separately, so the first step involved creating a dividing line all around the edge of the statue (above). This was done by building up a wooden support behind the statue, then adding a clay wall along the dividing line. Chalk powder is put on the surface of the clay statue first so that the clay wall can be removed without damaging the surface of the statue itself.


Once the clay wall has been added it is time to start coating the front side of the statue with a layer of silicone rubber (above). This is a fantastic material for mould-making as it can be easily applied to almost any surface, capturing the tiniest of details in the original sculpture (right down to the sculptor's fingerprints!).


Above you can see the front of the statue, with the wooden support behind and some of the clay wall still visible. The whole front and base of the statue is coated in a thick layer of white silicone rubber. The circular dents that you can see in the rubber are there so that the rubber sits correctly in the plaster casing... see below.

6.jpgPreparing the plaster.


Above you can see that the first section of the plaster casing has been added, encasing the base of the statue. Wooden supports are included within the plaster to add strength.


Once the whole of the front of the statue is encased in plaster it is time to work on the back (above) – the wooden support and the clay wall are removed and a layer of rubber is added over the top of the clay, just the same as for the front.


Once the rubber on the back of the sculpture has fully set, it too is enclosed with a plaster casing. Only once the plaster has fully dried is it time to take the mould apart...


First, the various parts of the plaster casing are prised off (above - you can see one of these parts leaning against the wall behind the statue). Then the rubber is peeled from the surface of the clay and laid back inside the plaster casing. This way the rubber holds the exact same shape as it did when it was on the surface of the statue and an accurate replica can be made. Finally, the moulding is complete!


So what next? Well, the mould is currently at the foundry where they are busy creating a hollow wax replica of the statue. Next week I will be joining the foundry to put the finishing touches to this replica, then we will move on to the 'investment' and casting stages.


If you're already curious to learn exactly how the mould is used, here's a good summary of the lost-wax casting process.

My next update will be coming from the foundry... stay tuned!


A very special book is currently being produced to commemorative the Wallace anniversary this year. The Letter from Ternate is being hand printed by Tim Preston on his Victorian Albion printing press at a rate of only about two pages per day. It is a labour of love and poor Tim has been printing for five weeks so far. Fortunately the end is now in sight. Once printing is finished, the book will be professionally hand-bound and engravings and other illustrations tipped-in. There will be a pocket on the inside back cover with additional pictures and other material. The book will consist of 96pp (not 80pp, as I stated in an earlier post). It is being printed on a beautiful mould-made paper from St Cuthbert’s Mill.


The book should be of considerable interest to Wallace aficionados since it includes new transcriptions from the original manuscripts of all surviving correspondence relating to the original publication of the Ternate essay, plus the famous essay itself and the speech Wallace gave at the Linnean Society in 1908 to mark the 50th anniversary of the essay's publication. This will be the first time that accurate copies of all the surviving correspondence relating to the publication of the essay have been published together in this way.


Only 100 copies of the book will be printed. Most have been reserved already, but a few are still available at the pre-publication price of £50 (£80 after publication). All profits will be donated to the Wallace Memorial Fund. The publication date is late Spring, 2013.


Specifications are as follows: the book will measure 12.5 x 18.75cm. Printed letterpress by hand on Somerset Book Soft White 175g, quarter bound in cloth with decorated paper sides. The introduction is by yours truly (George Beccaloni).


If you are interested in a copy please contact Tim directly by email.


See my earlier post for more information about the book.

ternate 3.jpg
Title page of the book
standardwing.jpgAn illustration from the book: Wallace's standardwing bird of paradise.

An article I recently wrote entitled Alfred Russel Wallace and Natural Selection: the Real Story has just been put onto the Bill Bailey's Jungle Hero page on the BBC website as a downloadable pdf file. If you think you know the story of how Wallace and Darwin came to publish the theory of natural selection together you might be in for a few surprises!


Bill Bailey's two part TV series on Wallace is finally ready to be broadcast. It is called Bill Bailey's Jungle Hero and the first episode will be shown on BBC2 at 20.00 on 21 April, and episode 2 on 28 April. Nothing like this has ever been made about Wallace before and I am hoping that it will increase interest in his life and work considerably. I have seen an almost finished version and I think it is excellent. Bill's subtle and surreal humour works brilliantly to keep the viewer entertained, whilst not detracting from or trivialising the story. Bill's personal passion for the subject is obvious.


I was Series Consultant for the programme and my main jobs were to provide information about Wallace and to check all the facts to ensure that the script was as historically accurate as possible. Due to constraints such as not being able to film on all the islands that the Producers would have liked to, and the need to simplify the story for television, a few minor inaccuracies remain that should only be noticed by a few real Wallace geeks.

George & Coconut Crab.small.jpgMe admiring a nocturnal coconut crab (the world's largest terrestrial arthropod!) in Sulawesi.
Copyright: Jan Beccaloni.


In July last year I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks working on the second programme with Bill and the BBC crew in Indonesia (Sulawesi, Ternate and Halmahera). I had an amazing time: I experienced the first earthquake of my life (scary), got up close and personal with black macaques (one even used my back as a trampoline when I bent over to photograph an insect!), was enthralled by gremlin-like tarsiers, impressed by colossal coconut crabs, and blown-away by Wallace's standardwing birds of paradise displaying only about 10 metres away from me. My wife Jan came out as well and we wrote a number of posts for this blog about our experiences, starting with this one.


More information about Bill Bailey's Jungle Hero, including some clips (two of which are footage which never made it in to the programme), can be seen on the BBC2 website. Put the dates in your calendar and tune in on the 21 Apr to see the first episode.

Bill&GeorgeInHalmahera.jpgMyself and Bill in the jungle in Halmahera island.
Photo by Jan Beccaloni. Copyright NHM.

So far in this series of posts on the making of the Wallace statue, we've described the background to the project and introduced me as the sculptor, and shown the important first stages of preparation.


In this third entry in the series, things are beginning to take shape:


The steel and wood armature that will support the plaster and clay of the sculpture.



Steel rods are used to support the arms, and a number of screws are added to the central wooden board and the leg frames in order to give greater support for the light-weight materials that are added next.



The rough shape of the body and limbs are 'blocked-out' using light-weight materials such as polystyrene foam and wood-wool (which is bound tightly to the armature using strong twine). It is onto these materials that the plaster and clay will be added.


More photos soon!


Anthony Smith


Read the earlier posts in this series:



In 1923, to mark the 100th anniversary of Alfred Russel Wallace's birth, a magnificent oil painting of him was donated to the Natural History Museum, London. It hung in the Museum's Central Hall for about 50 years, before being put into storage.


To help commemorate this year's 100th anniversary of Wallace's death, the portrait has been repaired, cleaned and revarnished, and it will soon be returned to its original position on the wall near the statue of Charles Darwin on the main stairs of the Central Hall. It will be unveiled by comedian and natural historian Bill Bailey at the launch of the Museum's Wallace100 events programme on the evening of 24 January, to go on public view from the 25th for about a year.

NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_004283_IA.jpgThe Museum's portrait of Wallace that will be on public view in the Central Hall from 25 January
© The Natural History Museum, London


History of the painting


Soon after Wallace's death in November 1913 a Memorial Committee was set-up with the purpose of raising money to commission three memorials to him: a marble medallion with a carved side profile of his head for Westminster Abbey; a painting of him; and statue of him for the Museum. However, because of the First World War, which began only 8 months after Wallace died, the fundraising campaign had to be cut short and only the medallion and the portrait were actually produced. The last was presented to the Museum by the artist Mr J. W. Beaufort who did not charge the Memorial Committee for his work.


The portrait was unveiled by Sir Charles Sherrington, President of the Royal Society, on 23 June 1923 during the 100th anniversary year of Wallace's birth. The following quotes are from the speech he gave (as recorded by The Times):


"The portrait that has a fitting place within the walls of this building in memory of Alfred Russel Wallace will be cherished for many reasons here. To those great collections for which this building is the house and the shrine he contributed generously and largely. Much of the fruit that he gathered in his expeditions in the Malay Archipelago enriches the galleries here. But he did even more for this collection and for all collections of natural history throughout the world by contributing a renowned and fertile idea [i.e. evolution by natural selection] which has lent and lends them a further significance and a new meaning. He contributed an interpretation which forms a guiding thread to a great deal of the study which such collections as this render possible...."


"I suppose that that happy circumstance of the juxtaposition of the portrait that we see there and of the statue [of Darwin] by which we are standing represents in collocation the commemoration of two men of whom it may be said, perhaps, that never a day passes but their two names rise to the memories of the director and the distinguished staff who are with him to study and to help others to study these collections."


The portrait was hung on the wall above and to the right of the Museum's statue of Charles Darwin on the stairs of the Central Hall and it remained in this position for almost 50 years (it was moved in 1971). From 2009 to 2012 it was on public display in the Historical Collections Room of the Darwin Centre Cocoon in the Museum's Orange Zone.

WallacePortraitInPositionIn1930.small.jpgPicture showing the Wallace painting in the Central Hall in c. 1930, from an Illustrated Guide to the Exhibition Galleries published in 1931. Note that the statue in the centre at this time is Richard Owen, not Darwin. The statue of Darwin was moved from this prime spot in September 1927 and Owen remained there until 2009, when the Darwin statue was moved back for Darwin200.


The artist


The only information mentioned about the artist of the portrait is that his name was Mr J. W. Beaufort. I believe that he was probably the professional photographer Mr John William Beaufort, who was born in 1864 and died in Guildford in 1943. There are several reasons for reaching this conclusion.


First, there do not appear to be any professional artists named J. W. Beaufort who were active at around this time. Second, the painting is based on a photograph of Wallace taken in 1903 by the famous photography firm Elliott & Fry, and John William Beaufort happened to be the manager of this firm from 1915 until 1926.


Another thing that supports this theory is that photographic firms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used to produce oil paintings for clients based on photographs, by photographically printing the image onto sensitised canvas and then painting over it. It would be interesting to know whether or not the Museum's portrait was produced in this way.


NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_004283_IA.jpgWallace photo. Copyright English Heritage
Beaufort's painting
© The Natural History Museum, London


Wallace photographed by Elliott & Fry in 1903.
© English Heritage

WallaceBirthday.jpgToday is Alfred Russel Wallace's 190th birthday. To celebrate I have written a piece about the magnificent portrait of him that was donated to the Museum to mark his 100th birthday in 1923 (left, sans party hat). Once it is buffed and polished, it will appear on this blog at lunchtime so, in the meantime, why not read the following two contrasting articles: one written to mark his 88th birthday, and one written for his 188th birthday.


This year will see unprecedented interest worldwide in Wallace - with several radio and TV programmes, about 10 books, museum exhibitions in 6 or 7 countries, five or so conferences, plus many other assorted events. What a great celebration of his life and work it will be! Keep an eye on our Wallace100 events diary throughout the year to find out what's happening.