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Wallace100

13 Posts tagged with the linnean_society_of_london tag
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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.

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This month’s selected letter from Wallace Letters Online was written on 16 August 1892, when Wallace was 69 years old, to Henry Deane.

 

Deane, an engineer who was born in London in 1847, had emigrated to Australia in 1879 and was responsible for electrifying the Sydney tramway system, and for building the Wolgan Valley Railway and Trans-Australian Railway. Deane graduated from Queen’s College, Galway, with honours in mathematics and natural sciences and later in life was twice president of the Royal Society New South Wales and was also president of the Linnean Society of New South Wales.

 

Wallace had found his name in a list of Linnean Society members living abroad and wrote to Deane in part to tell him how he recalled many happy evenings spent in Clapham Common with his mother and father - a chemist also called Henry. However, Wallace’s chief objective for writing this letter was not to reminisce, it was to source orchids. He had even included a set of guidelines entitled, "Instructions for packing & sending Terrestrial Orchids for cultivation."

 

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Wallace in his garden at Parkstone, Dorset in 1895.

© Wallace Memorial Fund and G.W. Beccaloni

 

Orchids and gardening - whilst allowing us an insight into Wallace’s personal life through his hobbies - are not the reasons I selected this piece as the letter of the month. The reason for selecting this letter, is because of its very last line, where Wallace writes:

 

"There is, I presume, a great future for Electricity in all parts of the world and in many yet undiscovered applications."

 

This closed the last paragraph of the letter, which was devoted to writing about his son, William, who had just qualified as an electrical engineer. With Deane himself being an engineer, he would no doubt have been interested in this little snippet of information.

 

However, that last sentence above really caught my eye and made stop and think just how different a world we are living in to the world Wallace inhabited and just what would he make of where we are scientifically and technologically today. I think he’d have some pretty strong opinions about both!

 

To give some context, the world in which Wallace lived in in 1892 was not without electricity. The electric motor had been invented over 70 years previously in 1821 by Michael Faraday, the first intelligible phone communication took place in 1875; 1879 was the year Edison invented the light bulb and it only took two years from there for electric light to be used in a domestic setting, albeit most probably a rich domestic setting. Electrification of trams in England happened in the 1890s and Marconi made significant strides in radio telegrahy and transmission.

 

So, the world was not without electricity. However, there were no televisions, no computers, no smartphones, no tablets, no hair straighteners, no electric cars, no electric fridges, no dishwashers, no commercial air travel… well you get the idea!

 

Now, I’m not qualified to judge what the best electrical innovation has been since Wallace made this statement in 1892, but I’d say computers have got to be up there competing for first place. What would Wallace make of them? What would he say about the internet, about social media, even about me writing this blog about a letter he sent to Australia in 1892?! And the fact that this letter has now been digitised and is available to read on the internet. Would he care?

 

I think he would. I think the fact that he wrote that sentence means he would care and take an immense interest in electrical and technological innovation over the last 100 years since his death. He was an inquisitive man who, as we well know, did not confine himself to simply studying the natural world. To use a well-known phrase, he had his fingers in many pies and our very different way of living would probably delight and horrify him in equal measures. He would, I think, appreciate how easy it is to disseminate information to mass audiences today in order to educate, and how easy it is to obtain information for research from an online scholarly journal (Wallace Letters Online is full of letters where he asks the recipient to send him a particular journal article he can’t obtain).

 

What would horrify him would be something that he actually wrote about 4 years before his death in 1909. He wrote to the Daily News a cautionary letter in response to receiving a programme entitled, "Aerial League of the British Empire" whose aim was to "To secure and maintain for the Empire the same supremacy in the air as it now enjoys on the sea" and Wallace urged the government in this open letter, "to dissociate itself from this proposed crime against humanity it is now. If ever there was a time when we should take the initiative against adding this new horror to the horrors of war (which all civilized Governments profess to be eager to diminish) it is now."

 

The way he wrote about such things shows what great foresight and intellect he had and also how incredibly sensible he was. It is perhaps a good thing he died before he witnessed the atrocities inflicted by aeroplanes and "flying machines" in the two World Wars and beyond into the present day.

 

I picked this letter to write about as it just proves no two letters in Wallace Letters Online are the same and the fact that Wallace continues to constantly surprise and intrigue me. We’re still tweeting about Wallace over on the Library & Archives twitter feed and check back next month, when I’ll write about another intriguing letter written by the man himself.

 

-Caroline-

Wallace Correspondence Project

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I have sometimes heard it said that Alfred Russel Wallace coined the term "Darwinism". This is incorrect, although he did use the term (perhaps unfortunately!) as the title of an excellent book about evolution which he published in 1889. The term "Darwinism" (as relating to Charles Darwin's theories rather than to his grandfather Erasmus' ideas) was actually first used by "Darwin's Bulldog" Thomas Henry Huxley in a review he wrote of Darwin's "Origin of Species" in 1860.

 

Curiously, the related term "neo-Darwinism", which refers to the 'modern' view of Darwinism minus the inheritance of acquired characters (i.e. Darwinism without Lamarckism), was coined by Samuel Butler in 1880 with reference to Alfred Russel Wallace's views about evolution. Wallace rejected Lamarckism throughout his long life, correctly insisting that natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolutionary change and that traits acquired by organisms during their lifetime (e.g. a blacksmith's well developed arm muscles) are not inherited by their offspring.

 

Wallace's first published rejection of Lamarckism was in his 'Ternate' essay of 1858 - which formed part of the famous paper in which he and Darwin proposed the theory of natural selection for the first time. Wallace wrote:

 

"The hypothesis of Lamarck — that progressive changes in species have been produced by the attempts of animals to increase the development of their own organs, and thus modify their structure and habits — has been repeatedly and easily refuted by all writers on the subject of varieties and species, and it seems to have been considered that when this was done the whole question has been finally settled; but the view here developed renders such an hypothesis quite unnecessary, by showing that similar results must be produced by the action of principles constantly at work in nature...Neither did the giraffe acquire its long neck by desiring to reach the foliage of the more lofty shrubs, and constantly stretching its neck for the purpose, but because any varieties which occurred among its antitypes [ancestors] with a longer neck than usual at once secured a fresh range of pasture over the same ground as their shorter-necked companions, and on the first scarcity of food were thereby enabled to outlive them."

 

Perhaps surprisingly, Darwin always believed that Lamarckism (what he called "use and disuse" inheritance) played a role in evolution alongside natural selection and in 1868 he even devised a now discredited theory, called Pangenesis, to explain how it might work. I find it ironic that not only was the term "neo-Darwinism" proposed with reference to Wallace's evolutionary views, but that Wallace was actually the first ever neo-Darwinian! He was even more "Darwinian" than Darwin himself and can be regarded as the first 'modern' evolutionary biologist. The term "neo-Darwinism" should really be replaced by the term "Wallacism" instead!

 

Note: The term "neo-Darwinism" is usually said to have been coined by George Romanes in 1888 (often erroneously stated to be 1895 or 1896), but it in fact dates back to Samuel Butler's book "Unconscious Memory" published in 1880. Butler used it in the sense described above and cited the above passage from Wallace's 1858 essay as an example of this view (which incidentally Butler disagreed with)!

 

References

 

[Huxley, T.H.] 1860. Darwin On the origin of Species. Westminster Review, 17 (n.s.): 541-70.

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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 timpress@me.com

 

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

 

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

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This month’s selected letter in my 'Letter of the Month' series was written by Wallace to his mother, Mary, from Java on 20 July 1861, just as his Malay Archipelago adventure was coming to an end. The opening sentence reveals his plans:

 

“I am as you will see now commencing my retreat westwards I have left the wild and savage Moluccas & New Guinea for Java the garden of the East & probably without any exception the finest island in the world.”

 

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WCP375: Wallace's letter home to his mother

 

Although coming at the end of his journey, this letter affords a great insight into the life of a travelling naturalist. He rejoices in the fact that travelling in Java and then onwards to Singapore will be a much more pleasant affair than where he has been travelling as good infrastructure made his job much easier.

 

“Good roads regular posting stages & regular inns & lodging houses all over the interior” make for a happy naturalist.

 

Wallace goes on to write he...

 

“...shall no more be obliged to carry about with me that miscellaneous lot of household furniture, -- bed, blankets, pots kettles and frying pan, -- plates, dishes & wash basin, coffee pots & coffee, tea sugar & butter, -- salt, pickles, rice, bread and wine -- pepper & curry powder, & half a hundred more odds & ends the constant looking after [of] which, packing and repacking, calculating & contriving, -- have been the standing plague of my life for the last 7 years. You will better understand this when I tell you that I have made in that time about 80 movements averaging one a month, at every one of which all of these articles have had to be rearranged & repacked by myself according to the length of the trip, besides a constant personal supervision to prevent waste or destruction of stores in places where it is impossible to supply them.”

 

Simply reading the list of everything he was required to take with him on his travels makes you appreciate what he achieved on those islands all the more but coupled with the fact he had to carry all this every time he moved on (about once a month) and also carry all specimens he collected with him, makes his feat extraordinary. He did have helpers at times which would have proved enormously useful but I really think the sheer scale of his endeavour comes to light in his letter home.

 

Just a few months earlier in March 1861 Wallace had written to his brother-in-law Thomas Sims about his travels and how the lure of home was growing ever bigger:

 

“I assure you I now feel at times very great longings for the peace & quiet of home, -- very much weariness of this troublesome wearisome wandering life. I have lost some of that elasticity & freshness which made the overcoming of difficulties a pleasure, & the country & people are now too familiar to me to retain any of the charms of novelty, which gild over so much that is really monotonous & disagreeable….. I think I may promise if no accidents happen to come back to dear & beautiful England in the summer of next year.”

 

And that he did, returning home to England by summer 1862, travel weary but eager to begin the next chapter in his life.

 

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The Malay Archipelago - Wallace travelled the length and breadth of this Archipelago over eight years.

 

One other anecdote caught my eye in the letter home to Thomas. He was responding to a letter Thomas had written which evidently mentioned Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which you might infer from Wallace’s reply, he had been none too positive about:

 

“Now for Mr Darwin’s book. You quite misunderstand both Mr D’s statement in the preface & his sentiments. I have of course been in correspondence with him since I first sent him my little essay.* His conduct has been most liberal & disnterested. I think any one who reads the Linn[ean] Soc[iety] papers & his book will see it. I do back him up in his whole round of conclusions & look upon him as the Newton of Natural History”

 

*Yet, another outstanding example of Wallace’s modesty! The "little essay" he refers to here is his famous 1858 essay "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection".

 

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Darwin - the Newton of Natural History? Wallace certainly thought so!

 

Wallace actively wrote home to his mother and sister during his travels and we have seven surviving letters written to his mother during the eight years travelling the archipelago and 11 to his sister and brother-in-law, Fanny and Thomas. All of them can be read on Wallace Letters Online.

 

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Wallace, his mother Mary and sister Fanny

© Wallace Memorial Fund & G. W. Beccaloni

 

 

 

You can follow in Wallace’s footsteps and explore his Amazon and Malay Archipelago expeditions in the museum’s Wallace Discovery Trail which was launched at the beginning of July and runs until November. You can find out more information about the Trail and download a map here.

 

Check back next month, when I'll delve once again into the correspondence and write about another letter that has caught my eye.

 

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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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.

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

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Watch a 30 minute Nature Live talk with George Beccaloni and Caroline Catchpole about Wallace's early life and his adventures in the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago. The event on 25 January 2013 marked the simultaneous launch of the Museum's Wallace100 events programme and Wallace Letters Online, and it features footage of comedian and Wallace fan Bill Bailey unveiling the magnificent portrait of Wallace, newly reinstated in the Museum's Central Hall.

 

 

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Thursday 24 January saw the official launch of both the Museum's Wallace100 events programme for 2013 and the Wallace Correspondence Project's (WCP) digital archive of Wallace's correspondence - Wallace Letters Online (WLO). The launches took place at an evening event for people directly connected with these projects.

 

There were about 80 guests, including three generations of the Wallace family, Sir David Attenborough (Patron of the WCP), comedian and naturalist Bill Bailey, Wallace biographer Peter Raby, representatives of the Linnean, Royal Geographical and Royal Entomological Societies, staff from Kew Gardens, and from Museums at Thurrock, Hertford, Dudley, Swansea, Cardiff and Oxford (all of which are planning Wallace exhibitions this year).

 

Other notable guests included the Deputy Indonesian Ambassador to the UK, a Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project and a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin. There were also about 16 Museum staff working on the night.

Judith,Shane&Andy.c.NHM.jpgLeft to right: Judith Magee (Wallace100 manager), Shane Winser (Royal Geographical Society), Andy Polaszek (Wallace100 manager).
© Natural History Museum
WallaceGreatGrandsons&Bill.c.J.Beccaloni.jpgLeft to right: Richard Wallace (ARW's great-grandson), Bill Bailey, Bill Wallace (ARW's great-grandson).
©  J. Beccaloni
c.J.Beccaloni.jpgLeft to right: John Wallace (ARW's grandson), Rosamund (ARW's great-great-granddaughter), George Beccaloni (director of WLO), Jan Beccaloni (secretary of the Wallace Fund), Susan (ARW's great-granddaughter).
© Natural History Museum

 

The evening started off with drinks and canapés in the Museum's Images of Nature gallery, giving people who are working on Wallace-related projects a chance to network with one another (one of the main aims of the evening). WCP Archivist Caroline Catchpole demonstrated Wallace Letters Online -which had gone live to the public on the Internet for the first time earlier that day - to guests, and the Museum's Nature Live team did short video interviews of selected guests.

TheVenue.c.JanBeccaloni.jpgThe Images of Nature gallery before the guests arrived.
©  J. Beccaloni


Half way through the event an announcement was made and guests gathered around the screen where Caroline had been demonstrating WLO. Bill Bailey then gave a speech about the project, declaring it to be 'officially launched'.

LaunchofWLO.c.NHM.jpgBill launches Wallace Letters Online.
© Natural History Museum

 

Towards the end of the evening guests made their way to the Museum's grand Central Hall and then part way up the central stairs - most gathered on the landing where the magnificent marble statue of Charles Darwin resides. Bill Bailey then made his way up the stairs and stood under the Museum's painting of Wallace, concealed under a golden cloth.

 

The picture had only two days previously been put back in this position; the one it had first occupied for a 50 year stretch after it was donated in 1923. Bill then gave a brilliant heartfelt speech, before gingerly pulling off the cloth to reveal the impressive portrait of Wallace. Afterwards he remarked "I must confess I was more nervous about that than the Royal Variety Show!"

BillUnveilingPortrait.c.J.Beccaloni.jpgBill unveils the painting...
©  J. Beccaloni
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The painting revealed.
© Natural History Museum

 

Bill's speech was filmed by a crew from the BBC and it will form the grand finale to a two part documentary about Wallace that he has been working on. After Bill had finished his stuff, another Bill - Wallace's great-grandson, William Wallace - concluded the evening by giving a short speech. Bill, who had travelled all the way from Canada to attend the launch, talked about his great-grandfather and said how proud he and the Wallace family were to see their illustrious relative back at the Museum and next to Darwin, where he belongs.

Bailey&Attenborough.c.J.Beccaloni.jpgBill and Sir David have a chat whilst Darwin looks on.
©  J. Beccaloni

 

Press coverage

 

A number of articles about the launch of Wallace100 and WLO have appeared on the web and in newspapers around the world. The main articles that I am aware of  on the internet are as follows (several of these were reproduced on hundreds  of other websites):

 

Nature

Scientific American

New Scientist

Wired

Daily Mail

The Guardian

The Independent

BBC News

Morning Star

Huffington Post 1

Huffington Post 2

Wellcome Library blog

Biodiversity Heritage Library blog

National Museum of Wales

Hertford Museum

 

Other languages

 

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Swiss newspaper in German)

Slobodna Dalmacija (newspaper in Croatian)

Volkskrant (newspaper in Dutch)

Greek newspaper (in Greek)

Foxnews (in Spanish)

NetMassimo (in Italian)

Gentside découvertes (in French)

Brazilian blog (in Portuguese)

 

Museum news reports about Wallace100 and WLO

 

News article

Wallace100 blog

Library and Archives blog

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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.

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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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One of the historically most important documents in the Wallace Family Archive at the Natural History Museum is an 'offprint' (an author's copy sent by the publisher) of the famous 1858 Darwin-Wallace paper on natural selection - the scientific article which launched the evolution revolution. This paper is widely regarded as being one of the most important scientific papers of all time, and what is special about the Museum's copy is that it was owned and annotated by Wallace.

1858paper.jpgTitle of the 1858 Darwin-Wallace paper from Wallace's offprint.
Copyright Natural History Museum.

 

The Darwin-Wallace paper was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on the 1st of July 1858 and then published in their journal about 7 weeks later. Although we don't know who sent the offprint to Wallace, or exactly when, we do know for sure that it was sent by post from England to him whilst he was out collecting in Indonesia, or the Malay Archipelago as he called it. The reason we know this is that there is a relatively long pencil annotation on a blank end page of the offprint which was written by Wallace whilst on Amboina [Ambon] Island, Indonesia, in February 1860. This note is of extreme interest as it gives Wallace's first recorded reaction to reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species for the first time. Here is a transcript of it:

 

1860. Feb.

 

After reading Mr Darwin's admirable work "On the Origin of Species", I find that there is absolutely nothing here that is not in almost perfect agreement with that gentlemans facts & opinions.

 

His work however touches upon & explains in detail many points which I had scarcely thought upon, - as the laws of variation, correlation of growth, sexual selection, the origin of instincts and of neuter insects, & the true explanation of Embryological affinities. Many of his facts & explanations in Geographical distribution are also quite new to me & of the highest interest -

 

ARWallace [signature] … Amboina

 

A pdf of the whole of this historic document is available on the Wallace Correspondence Project's website. Please visit the site and then download the 1858_PAPER.pdf file. For a transcript of the text of the paper minus Wallace's annotations see this page.

 

If you would like to read more about the history of Wallace's offprint and the annotations he made on it, then please see the chapter I wrote on it in my book Natural Selection & Beyond: The Intelectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace, which can be read here. Finally, for an account of Wallace's discovery of natural selection, and why he and Darwin published their ideas together download my PDF.

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The Linnean Society of London (where Darwin and Wallace's seminal paper which first proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection was famously read in 1858) have announced that they plan to publish the Wallace notebooks they own online as a contribution to the 2013 anniversary celebrations. The Society has 10 of Wallace's important early notebooks, including four volumes of the journal Wallace kept whilst travelling in the Malay Archipelago, which he used to write his famous travel book The Malay Archipelago. They were donated to the Society by Wallace's son William after his father's death in 1913 and have only been read by a few scholars since.

 

Two of these notebooks, the 'Species Notebook' and the 'North American Journal' will also be published as printed books in 2013. The first is being transcribed and analysed in minute detail by evolutionary biologist James Costa, and the second is being transcribed and edited by Wallace historian Charles Smith. For more information about the Linnean's project see: http://www.linnean.org/The-Society/societynews/Wallace_2013

 

It is also worth noting that William donated his father's two other early notebooks to the Natural History Museum library (which also has a number of later notebooks). These are Wallace's collecting notebooks, in which he listed the insect and bird species he collected in South-East Asia, along with notes on their behaviour etc. The Wallace Correspondence Project, which I am the Director of, has scanned these and aims to publish them soon as part of its online catalogue of Wallace's correspondence. This online catalogue will be 'soft launched' on the Museum's website next month. Watch this space!!

PageFromARWsNotebook.jpgA page from one of Wallace's collecting notebooks owned by the NHM
Copyright: The Natural History Museum