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Wallace100

5 Posts tagged with the charles_smith tag
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With the Wallace100 year drawing to a close, a year that has seen us remember and celebrate the legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace 100 years after his death, I was interested to find out if there was any activity immediately after Wallace’s death in November 1913 to mark his extraordinary life in any way. I thought there was no better place to start looking than in the letters sent after his death found on Wallace Letters Online.

 

Shortly after his death, Wallace’s three close friends, James Marchant, Raphael Meldola and Edward Bagnall Poulton set up the Wallace Memorial Fund, also known as the Memorial Committee. The fund’s purpose was to create a memorial for Wallace, in the form of a medallion featuring Wallace for Westminster Abbey; a portrait of him and a statue of him for the Natural History Museum.

 

As it turned out only the medallion and the portrait were created, with the memorial unveiled at the Abbey on 1 November 1915 and the painting by J. W. Beaufort presented to the Museum on the 100th anniversary of his birth in January 1923.

 

Marchant, Meldola and Poulton set about raising awareness of the Fund and raising money in the months following November 1913. In a letter written to Poulton on 23 February 1914, Meldola (the Fund’s Treasurer) informs Poulton

 

“The Fund is now £236 & Marchant wants to issue order for Medallion”.

 

Westminster Abbey was delighted to accept the medallion and nine months after this letter was written, it was unveiled.

 

Well-known names from the scientific world contributed to the fund, including Archibald Geikie, E. Ray Lankester and David Prain as well as contributors from the world of spiritualism and long-term correspondents of Wallace’s – Oliver Lodge and William Crookes.

 

However, a letter from William Greenell Wallace in January 1914 to TDA Cockerell, who was a close friend of Wallace’s, revealed the difficulties the Fund was having in realising their ambitious programme;

 

“I am sorry to say that the memorial fund is progressing very slowly and I doubt it will be possible to do more than the Abbey medallion, and even that will cost £300. The Abbey fee, for permission only, is £200 and the sculptor’s fee, greatly reduced in this case, is £100. It seems that fame without money has not much chance of recognition in this democratic country.”

 

“There is no fear that the statue will [be] disappointing as there is no chance of it being done, at present.”

 

Violet Wallace, in a letter to Octavius Pickard-Cambridge written on 5 December 1913 talked about the possible statue, writing,

 

“I like the idea of a statue if it could be like the one of Darwin in the N. H. Museum – that one always looks so natural, and my father would look nice.”

 

Sadly, the Fund didn’t raise enough money to achieve all of their aims, with the statue not being realised. However, 100 years after his death, there is at last a statue of Wallace housed at the Museum, a fitting way to commemorate Wallace and his achievements.

 

The Wallace Memorial Fund launched a new fundraising campaign last year and comissioned sculptor Anthony Smith to create a statue of Wallace in his exploring days, as a young naturalist in the field. It is also perhaps fitting, that the statue will be positioned close to the Darwin Centre, where the bulk of Wallace’s specimens that he collected during his years in the field are now housed.

 

Wallace statue.jpgThe new statue of Alfred Russel Wallace after its unveiling by Sir David Attenborough.

 

Update: The new statue was unveiled at a ceremony last night by Sir David Attenborough and will be located inside the Darwin Centre for the weekend before moving to its permanent position outside on Monday.

 

-Caroline-

Wallace Correspondence Project



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This month’s selected letter, or rather, note, is as short and succinct as I will keep this blog post. It was written by Wallace’s son William Greenell Wallace announcing his father’s death, and is dated 7 November 1913 - the very day Wallace passed away.

 

The short note reads,

 

“Dr. Wallace was taken ill on Sunday night.

He has not left his bed since Monday night.

Dr. Wallace has passed a restless night & seems weaker this morning.

 

W.G. Wallace

 

Dr. Wallace passed away very peacefully at 9.25 a.m without regaining consciousness. W.G.W.”

 

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WCP1649: William Greenell Wallace's announcement

 

Wallace led a long and successful life, living to be 90 years of age, with only minor health problems later in life. The plethora of obituaries that were written following his death are testament to what an extraordinary life he led. I’ll leave you with a few quotes from a few different ones published in the weeks after his death.

 

"A life so long, so active, and so varied, cannot be dealt with in a small compass. Simple and unostentatious, he was a great man in the truest sense of the word." (British Medical Journal, 15th November 1913)

 

"He was one of the greatest and clearest thinkers of his age . . . of one thing I am certain, and that is that never has anybody come more fully within my favourite description of a great man, namely, that 'he is a combination of the head of a man and the heart of a boy.'" (The Daily Citizen, 8th November 1913)

 

"By the death of Alfred Russel Wallace this country loses not only a great scientist, but the last of the men who made the early part of the Victorian era so memorable." (Daily News & Leader, 8th November 1913)

 

"The last link with the great evolutionary writers of the mid-nineteenth century--the men who transformed the thought of the world--is broken. How can I best speak of the long, happy, hard-working, many-sided life that has just come to a close?" (Nature, 20 November 1913)

 

"It is impossible for any man to discuss adequately the life work of Alfred Russel Wallace. His activities covered such a long period, and were so varied, that no one living is in a position to critically appreciate more than a part of them . . . All must agree that a great and significant career has just been closed, but its full measure will probably never be known to any single man." (Science, 1913 December 1913)

 

-Caroline-

Wallace Correspondence Project

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Friday 7 June saw Wallace enthusiasts descend on the University of Bournemouth for a one day conference on Wallace, fittingly held in the Alfred Russel Wallace Lecture Theatre, organised by the Linnean Society and The Society for the History of Natural History.

 

Entitled "Unremitting passion for the beauty and mystery of the natural world" the day included 6 talks about different aspects of Wallace’s life and work, a theatre performance by Theatr na n’Og called "You should ask Wallace" and an evening reception at Bournemouth Society for Natural Sciences.

 

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The morning was kicked off by Andrew Sortwell and David Orr Kerr who gave a fascinating talk of following, quite literally, in Wallace’s footsteps with two expeditions to the Amazon, one in 1978 and one in 2007. They shared with us amazing photos of some of locations Wallace would have visited during his 1848-52 expedition there and shared with us photos of native boats, much like Wallace would have travelled in. In 1978 the Wallace Expedition to Amazonia spent three months in remote regions of the Amazon studying the flora and fauna and in 2007, the second expedition involved travelling to the Rio Negro and spending some time in an Indian Reserve. They also visited São Joaquim, now deserted but the village where Wallace nearly lost his life to illness during his expedition. Their talk was fascinating and it was great to see photos of specimens Wallace would have collected and also to see some of David’s beautiful watercolours from the trip.

 

Janet Ashdown, conservator at the Linnean Society was the next speaker and spoke about the project she worked on to conserve Wallace’s 10 notebooks from the Amazon and Malay Archipelago. The Society acquired the notebooks in 1936 after Wallace’s son William offered them via Edward Bagnall Poulton. In 2011 funding was awarded by the Mellon Foundation to digitise the notebooks, but they were in a poor state of repair and needed to be conserved first. Each notebook was in a varying state of disrepair with his Amazon notebook needing the least intervention. There were four notebooks that were really degraded with Janet commenting they had been strangely constructed with straw-board covers. There were also old repairs that had been undertaken and unfortunately old covers had to be permanently removed because of degradation, however they have been kept and the new covers have been modelled closely on the originals. This was a really insightful talk and I enjoyed learning about the method and the time it took to restore these notebooks to their former glory. These notebooks have also just been digitised and are free to view on the Linnean Society’s website.

 

The final talk before lunch was given by Professor Jim Costa on insights and observations into Wallace’s Species notebooks. Professor Costa’s research into these notebooks will be published in October this year in his new book entitled On the Organic Law of Change. The species notebook (held by the Linnean Society, mc. 180) covers the period 1855-1859 whilst he was in the Malay Archipelago, a period of "remarkable creativity" for Wallace as Jim put it which saw the publication of the 1855 Sarawak Law and the 1858 Ternate Essay that saw him catapulted to fame alongside Charles Darwin. Jim also highlights Wallace’s critique of Sir Charles Lyell in his notebook, showing Lyell to be an inspiration to Wallace during this time. Jim has studied, transcribed and annotated the notebook for his new book, which is bound to give new and interesting insights into Wallace and his time spent in the Malay Archipelago.

 

After lunch, I was lucky enough to have been asked to speak about the Wallace Correspondence Project and it was great to be able to share with so many people details about the project and to show people just what an amazing resource Wallace Letters Online is.

 

Also speaking in the afternoon was Annette Lord, a volunteer at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History who spoke about Oxford Wallace’s collection, which consists of over 300 paper items in the Wallace archive, mostly letters and postcards dating from 1860 to 1913 and tens of thousands of specimens collected by Wallace and numerous type specimens, including Wallace’s famous giant bee, Megachile pluto. It was really interesting to hear Annette talk about Oxford’s collections on Wallace and she recounted many great stories told in the letters, mostly to Edwards Bagnall Poulton and Raphael Meldola, all of which are available to view on Wallace Letters Online.

 

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Some lovely specimens from the Oxford Wallace Collection

 

The final talk of the day was given by Dr Charles Smith and focused on Wallace and Natural Selection. Charles explored Wallace’s 1858 Ternate paper - the one which he sent to Darwin and was subsequently read with Darwin’s work on 1 July 1858 at the Linnean Society - and asked how much we really knew about Wallace’s own evolution of thought and explored Wallace being influenced by the works of Alexander von Humboldt. A thoroughly interesting talk and a great end to the presentations.

 

We were then treated to an excellent performance by Theatr na n’Og with a play called "You should ask Wallace". The play tells Wallace’s story, with one actor playing Wallace who recounts his childhood, early surveying career and expeditions to the Amazon and Malay Archipelago. They perform the play in schools around Wales and this year are busy with performances to a wide range of audiences. It was excellent and the actor who played Wallace bore more than a passing resemblance to the young naturalist! It’s a great way to engage a younger audience in Wallace’s extraordinary life and to inspire them also and it was really interesting seeing the play as it helps you to better imagine the challenging feats Wallace undertook.

 

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A Q&A session with Theatr na n'Og after their great performance

 

To round off the day there was a drinks reception at Bournemouth Society for Natural Sciences, which gave the delegates a chance to chat to one another about the days interesting talks. It was lovely talking to people so enthusiastic about Wallace, in such interesting surroundings, with the Society’s headquarters full of interesting specimens.

 

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The lovely surroundings of the Bournemouth Society for Natural Sciences

 

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Wallace and Darwin both honoured at the Society's headquarters

 

I’d like to say a big thanks to the Linnean Society for organising such an interesting day; another great success for Wallace100!

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Whilst searching for something on Charles Smith's Wallace Page website, which contains transcripts of all of Wallace's published writings, I came across the following short article, which had originally been printed in The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) no. 30928: 4c on the 15th October 1945:

"What is Wrong with the World?"

 

On the last birthday of the late Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, who died in 1913, I asked him the following question: "From the vantage ground of 91 years, and as the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection, what is wrong with the world?" He instantly answered: "That man's scientific discoveries have outstripped his moral development."

 

As I left his couch he added: "If I could stumble upon the way to release and control atomic energy I would die with the secret. Man at his present stage of moral character ought not to be entrusted with any more power: he will only destroy himself by it."

 

-- Sir James Marchant, social writer and worker.

 

 

The author, Sir James Marchant (1867-1956) was a philanthropist and writer who was a friend of Wallace's. In 1916 he published a 2 volume book entitled Alfred Russel Wallace; Letters and Reminiscences (Cassell and Co., 507 pp.).

 

Forgive my lack of knowledge about the history of physics, but how did Wallace know about atomic energy - was this something which was well known in 1913, perhaps as a result of Einstein's work? Comments are welcome below!

 

See the version from which I took the above text, plus two other similar versions of Marchant's reminiscence about Wallace here.

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Evolution by natural selection has been called "...arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind" yet only one of its co-discoverers, Charles Darwin, is honoured by a statue in the Natural History Museum. The other, Alfred Russel Wallace, has no statue in this museum or indeed anywhere else in the world, a sad fact that the Wallace Memorial Fund would like to change.

 

About 2 months ago the Fund launched a campaign to raise the money needed for a life-size bronze statue of Wallace for the Museum, which if all goes to plan, will be unveiled on the 100th anniversary of his death, 7 November 2013. Unfortunately, fundraising has been slow and £38,000 remains to be found by the impending deadline of 31 January 2013.

 

In an attempt to publicise the campaign and boost donations the Wallace Fund has just launched a free prize draw with the following fantastic prizes:

 

  • A pair of tickets to attend a very special event at the Natural History Museum on Thursday the 7 November 2013 - the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death. Details of this event have not been finalised, but it is very likely that there will be a lecture by Sir David Attenborough at the start of the event. Bill Bailey should be attending the event and he and/or Sir David will unveil the Wallace statue - that is if sufficient money has been raised to commission it! Tickets to the lecture will be in short supply and the VIP event afterwards will be by invitation only.
  • An exclusive leather-bound copy of the hand-printed book The Letter from Ternate by Tim Preston which is due to be published in Spring 2013. Only 100 individually numbered copies of this book will be produced and the standard copies will be cloth-bound.
  • A pack of assorted Bill Bailey merchandise - some/all will be signed by Bill himself.
  • A signed copy of the hardback edition of the book Natural Selection and Beyond edited by Charles Smith and George Beccaloni.

 

More details about the draw may be found on the Wallace Memorial Fund website.

Charles_Darwin_Statue,_Natural_History_Museum,_London (1).jpgThe Natural History Museum's magnificent statue of Darwin
Photo copyright Eluveitie/London