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Wallace100

31 Posts tagged with the malay_archipelago tag
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Wallace Letters Online (the electronic archive of Wallace's correspondence) has just received its first major update since its launch on 24 January this year. A total of 297 new transcripts, 320 letters (178 of them published versions) and 17 manuscript items have been added, including one of Wallace's notebooks (WCP5223), a scientifically important note about weevil (beetle) specimens he collected in the Malay Archipelago (WCP5114), and some 'newly discovered' pencil sketches that Wallace made in Brazil (WCP5099, WCP5100, WCP5101, WCP5102).

 

The latter are the most exciting additions since they are some of the few possessions which Wallace managed to rescue from the smoke-filled cabin of his ship, before it burned and sank in the mid-Atlantic on his way back to England in 1852. All of the other sketches that he managed to save, apart from his fish drawings, are owned by the Linnean Society, so it's great that the Museum now has a few of its own. They were  loosely inserted into his personal first edition copy of his book Narrative of travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro and although I had noticed them there years ago, it was only recently that I realised that they were unknown to others, including the Museum's librarians!

 

One of them (WCP5102) was reproduced in his Amazon book as the illustration on plate 2 "Forms of Granite rocks". It is wonderful to be able to 'rediscover' treasures like these and make them available to Wallace scholars for the first time.

WCP5099_M5604_1.jpgWCP5099. Front reads: "First rocky point, in Rio Tocantins 50 miles above Bãiao.Sept 10", back reads: "Sketch no. 4. First rocky point in the Tocantins [River]"
WCP5100_M5605_1.jpgWCP5100. Back reads: "Sketch no. 5. Mr C's. Hous[e] in the Island of Mexicana"

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WCP5101. Front reads: "Sugar and Rice Mill.", back reads: "Sketch no. 6. S. Jozé on the Capim River"

WCP5102_M5607_1.jpg

WCP5102. No caption front or back, but the published version in his book is labeled: "Forms of Granite rocks"
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Sculptor Anthony Smith writes:

 

It has been rather tricky tracking down the exact designs of the boots, trousers and (particularly) the shirt that Wallace would have worn, but we have finally managed it thanks to various individuals at the V&A, the University of Auckland, the Northampton Museum, and some great detective work by George Beccaloni.

 

Using information gleaned from Wallace's own writings as well as the advice of various experts, we can now depict Wallace in his full, authentic clothing, and with all his proper collecting equipment (which I'm sure he would be very happy about!). The plaster stage of the sculpture has been completed and I am now working on the clay (see below).

Statue1.smaller.jpgStatue2.smaller.jpg

 

The general forms that make up the body are sculpted in plaster but are kept slightly small in order to leave space for the clay surface. The plaster is then varnished to prevent it from drawing too much moisture from the clay on top.

 

1861 boots (1).jpg

Ankle-height, lace-up leather boots circa 1861, of the type Wallace probably wore in the Malay Archipelago

 

Read the earlier posts in this series:

 

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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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This month’s letter comes from Ternate, when Wallace was 4 years into his 'Eastern journey ' exploring the Malay Archipelago. I selected this letter not just for its content, fascinating though it is, but for the story behind it and the fact that this innocent letter has caused quite a stir, albeit unintentionally.

 

Wallace travelled to the Malay Archipelago (Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia) in March 1854, eighteen months after returning from his Amazon expedition. He spent eight years exploring the islands, travelling a total of 14,000 miles and undertaking 60-70 separate journeys. In this time he amassed a huge, diverse and important collection of insects, birds, mammals and reptiles – around 25,000 specimens in total, with well over a thousand of these new to science.

 

The scientific observations Wallace made on these islands contributed to some of his most important work. The two volume book The Malay Archipelago published in 1869 was written about his eight years there, and was so successful that it hasn’t been out of print since its publication.

 

The letter in question is one from Wallace to Frederick Bates, brother of Henry Walter who was Wallace’s Amazon companion. It was written from Ternate, on 2nd March 1858 and discusses insect collecting, insect coloration and other musings on the richness of the archipelago.

 

Frederick, like his brother Henry, collected insects and had written to Wallace previously about the sorts of things he had been collecting, in particular exotic insects. Wallace shared details in the letter about the sorts of species he had been collecting and where they had been found. He mentioned to Bates that his second Macassar collection should reach England soon and he believed it contained "the most remarkable lot of Carabidae ever collected in the tropics in so short a time". He gives a vivid account of what life as a collector in the tropics sometimes amounted to, spending "hours daily on my knees in wet sand & rotten leaves".

 

WCP367_L367_1.jpg

Letter to Bates from Ternate, 2nd March 1858

 

The letter has an extremely rich entomological content, discussing species found in different localities and the research he has been conducting which will contribute to scholarly work upon his return. Musing on the richness of the archipelago, Wallace writes:

 

"I could spend 20 years here were life long enough, but feel I cannot stand it away from home & books & collections & comforts, more than four or five, & then I shall have work to do for the rest of my life. What would be the use of accumulating materials which one could not have time to work up?"

 

Luckily for us, he heeded his own words of wisdom, returning in 1862 to write and publish much on the region.

 

The link in the letter to the story behind it comes as he writes, "I have lately worked out a theory which accounts for them naturally". This sentence is a reference to the now famous essay he wrote whilst recovering from a fever in February 1858. The essay in question was on the theory of evolution by natural selection, which he sent together with an accompanying letter to Charles Darwin shortly after penning it, asking Darwin to forward it on to Sir Charles Lyell.

 

Darwin received the letter and essay on 18th June, writing to Lyell the same day asking what he should do with Wallace’s work. Knowing that Darwin had deivsed a similar theory Lyell and Joseph Hooker thought the fairest thing to do would be to read the two men’s work at a meeting of the Linnean Society. This was duly done on 1st July 1858, leading to the publication of "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection" – thus uniting the two great scientists as co-discoverers of this ground-breaking theory.

 

Whether or not it was fair for the essay to be read publically without Wallace’s knowledge is a whole other blog entirely – the controversy this blog is concerned with is the date on which Darwin received Wallace's essay, 18th June 1858, and the discovery of the letter to Frederick Bates in the later decades of the twentieth century which was received by Bates on 3rd June 1858.

 

OK, you might say, two completely different letters to two completely different people, written around the same time – why should that cause a stir? Well, there was only one steamer a month that carried mail on its journey to the UK and it had long been thought that Wallace had sent his letter and essay to Darwin on the March steamer.

 

The discovery of the Bates letter confuses matters because it quite clearly has 3 postage marks on it, indicating it began its journey aboard the steamer that left Ternate on 9th March 1858. There is a mark indicating its arrival in Singapore on 21st April 1858 and then London on 3rd June, and a final mark showing that it arrived at its destination, Leicester, the same day 3rd June.

 

Therefore if Wallace’s letter and essay to Darwin had been sent on the March steamer they would have reached Down House also on 3rd June or thereabouts (one would assume, especially as Down House is much closer to Southampton than Leicester). Therefore, conspiracy theorists have delighted in theorising that Darwin received the essay on 3rd June but said nothing about it to anyone until the 18th, which is when he wrote to Charles Lyell saying he had received it. This would have given him time to read over Wallace’s work and use it to amend his own.

 

WCP367_L367_4.jpg

Page 4 of the letter to Bates, clearly showing the three postage marks of Singapore, London and Leicester

 

As unlikely as this seems, it has actually spurred four authors to write about it; McKinney (1972), Brackman (1980), Brooks (1984), and Davies (2008) and many more have questioned what really went on - did Darwin receive the letter two weeks before he said he did? Did he use Wallace’s essay to shape his own work?

 

Of course, this theorising wouldn’t even need to happen if we still had the letter Wallace sent to Darwin as it would no doubt have similar postage stamps to the Bates letter, charting the journey to its destination. However, we still don’t know where the letter is, or if it even survives, although the museum did launch an appeal in 2011 to try and trace this iconic piece of history.

 

Late in 2011, Dr. John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker sought to re-investigate this thorny issue in an article they published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society "A new theory to explain the receipt of Wallace’ Ternate essay by Darwin in 1858" (2012, 105, pp. 249-252). They put forth an argument that in fact, the letter to Darwin was sent on the April steamer, not March. This is supported by evidence that Wallace’s letter (which he sent the essay) was a reply to Darwin’s letter of 22nd December 1857 (this is actually one of the few things known about the missing letter).

 

Davies (2008) undertook some detective work which indicated Wallace would have received this December letter from Darwin in March 1858, on the same steamer that he would have sent the letter to Bates on. As the steamer would not have stayed long at Ternate, there would  therefore be no way Wallace could  have written a reply and send it off to England on the 9th March steamer. Wallace’s later recollections of sending this letter to Darwin don’t allude to the month he sent it either, just that it was sent to him via the "next post".

 

Dr. van Wyhe and Rookmaaker chart the journey of the letter and essay via the various stops it would have made in its way back to England, finally reaching Southampton on 16th June 1858 at nine o’clock in the evening, travelling to London early on the 17th and finally reaching Down House on the 18th June.

 

So, this seemingly innocuous letter to Bates ended up causing quite a stir and I’m sure Wallace would have been quite amused at all the fuss! Conspiracy theories will always abound and there will always be people who prefer Darwin to Wallace and vice versa, but really if you strip all that away, what you have are two remarkable men, independently co-discovering a theory that was forever to change the way we see the world.

 

You can explore Wallace and Darwin’s relationship through their letters here. Check back next month when I’ll be writing about something else that’s caught my eye.

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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.
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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:

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

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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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As February is the month of romance and many of us get into the spirit by celebrating St. Valentine’s Day on the 14th, I thought I would make February’s letter of the month feature all about romance and look behind the science to Wallace the man.

 

This month’s letter was written to Alfred Newton, who was the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at Cambridge University, elected to the post in 1866 and one he retained until his death in 1907. Wallace and Newton corresponded extensively upon Wallace’s return to England from the Malay Archipelago on a variety of scientific and personal subjects and Wallace Letters Online features a total of 83 letters written between the two men.

 

However, one particular letter dated 19th February 1865 that Wallace wrote to Newton caught my eye; it was about more than science, revealing a recent heartbreak he had suffered. He writes to Newton,

 

“The fact is however I have done nothing for the last six months, -- having met with that "tide" Shakespear[sic] speaks of, which I had thought to have taken at the flood & been carried on, not to fortune but to happiness, -- when a wave came & left me high & dry, -- & here I am like a fish out of water.

 

To descend from metaphor I have been considerably cut up. I was to have been married in December, -- everything appeared serene, -- invitations were sent out, wedding dresses ordered & all the programme settled, when almost at the last moment without the slightest warning the whole affair was broken off.”

 

The lady in question was Marion Leslie, daughter of Wallace’s chess-playing friend Lewis Leslie. Peter Raby, in his excellent biography of Wallace theorises some possible reasons for the literal jilt at the altar, citing Wallace’s unsteady income, lack of investments and possibly some of his more ‘unorthdox’ views may have reached the family.

 

Wallace also speaks of his heartbreak to Darwin in January 1865, writing “you may imagine how this has upset me when I tell you that I never in my life before had met with a woman I could love, & in this case I firmly believe I was most truly loved in return.

 

Scarcely any of my acquaintances know of this, but though we have met so little yet I look upon you as a friend, & as such hope you will pardon my boring you with my private affairs.”

 

Wallace despairs in another letter to Darwin in October 1865 that he is struggling to complete his work and believes having a wife would greatly assist him with his work although he believes it “not likely” to happen. At this point, you have to really feel for Wallace, jilted at the altar and believing himself to remain a bachelor from there on in. It’s also nice to see first-hand that Wallace felt Darwin and Newton were close enough confidantes and friends that he could share such delicate affairs of the heart with them.

 

All was not lost, thankfully! To give the story the happy ending it deserves, he met his future wife Annie Mitten, daughter of William Mitten, an authority on bryophytes, when he visited Mitten’s home in Treeps with his friend Richard Spruce. Alfred and Annie were married on 5th April 1866 and their first son Herbert was born in June the following year, with Violet and William following in 1869 and 1871. They remained happily married for the rest of his life.

 

Wallace & Annie.jpg

Wallace and his wife Annie

© Wallace Memorial Fund & G. W. Beccaloni

 

Call me a hopeless romantic but this letter really piqued my interest. When we think back to the great scientific minds of the nineteenth century, we often define them by their theories and the great scientific work they produced (and also conjure up an image of them which is invariably them in old age, bearded and be-spectacled) and forget they were just like you and me (albeit a touch more intelligent!) and I find it immensely interesting to uncover the more personal side of the scientist, the character and personality behind the science. This is just one of many reasons Wallace Letters Online is such a useful resource, as it can finally give unbiased insights into Wallace’s private life, from the man himself!

 

Follow the Library and Archives twitter feed where we’ll be tweeting Wallace facts weekly and check back next month when I take another leap into Wallace Letters Online for March’s letter of the month.

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Euchirus.jpgThere is evidence from at least two independent sources that in 1855, not long after he arrived in the Malay Archipelago, Wallace began to write notes for a book about evolution. It is thought that its provisional title was "The Organic Law of Change", and it seems that he abandoned work on it in 1859 when he found out that Darwin was about to publish a book on the same subject i.e. On the Origin of Species. Interestingly, Darwin had begun writing his book on evolution in 1856 about a year after Wallace started writing notes for his book.

 

The notes for Wallace's book survive in a difficult-to-interpret notebook in the library of The Linnean Society, a scanned version of which the Society intends to put up on the web soon. Euchirus2.jpgThe notebook has been carefully transcribed and is being meticulously studied by a colleague, who has almost finished writing a book about the evolution of Wallace's evolutionary ideas, which will be published later this year.

 

For more information about Wallace's planned book on evolution see McKinney, H. L. 1972. Wallace and Natural Selection. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. 193 pp.

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During the Wallace100 year, I will be selecting a letter every month to write about. This letter could be historically important, scientifically significant or just funny and interesting!

 

I thought I’d start the series by writing about two letters – a letter written to Wallace and his reply to it. Wallace received the letter very late on in his life, in 1912, and his response to it gives a great insight into his thoughts and feelings of his long and illustrious career.

 

Wallace was great friends with Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell, an American zoologist who, in 1912, was professor of systematic zoology and a lecturer at the University of Colorado, USA. Cockerell’s students sent Wallace a letter of appreciation and greeting’s card for his 89th birthday in January 1912 which was signed by 129 students. They wrote at the top the letter:

 

"To Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace:

We, the students in the General Biology Class at the University of Colorado, ardent admirers of your work on Evolution, send you respectful greetings on the occasion of your eighty-ninth birthday, wishing you health and happiness."

WCP1500_L1279_1.jpg

Above: Letter to Wallace from Biology students at Colorado University
© Natural History Museum, London

 

Wallace wrote a reply to the students, enclosing it in a letter to Cockerell. He wrote to his friend that he was writing in response "to the very kind greetings of the members of your class of general Biology" and that they can have "no more capable and enthusiastic teacher".

 

In his letter to Cockerell’s students, dated 12 January 1912, Wallace gives a fascinating insight into his feelings of nature that he describes as the "solace of my life". He goes on to write "my first views of the grand forests of the Amazon; thence to the Malay Archipelago, where every fresh island with its marvellous novelties and beauties was an additional delight – nature has afforded me an ever increasing rapture". Wallace describes how his love of nature has not dwindled over the years but has in fact been cultivated in a different way through his "wild garden and greenhouse". Wallace’s letter to the Biology students is very touching and insightful and the students were extremely privileged indeed to receive such a letter.

 

You can read the letters for yourself here and here and can explore the many thousands more that are available on Wallace Letters Online.

 

Check back next month, when I’ll be delving into the Wallace correspondence again to write about another letter that caught my eye.

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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.

 

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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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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
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The “earthquake-tortured island of Ternate” (as Wallace called it in his book The Malay Archipelago) is a small island off the north-east coast of Sulawesi. It basically consists of a very large volcano (Mount Gamalama, 1,715 m) which is only inhabited around the base and is forested all the way to the crater. The volcano erupted violently in 1840 wiping out most of the town. The last time it erupted in a more modest way was a few months ago and the ash closed the airport for several days. This is a sobering thought, given that you can clearly see the volcano from any part of the island, and it only looks a stone’s throw away from the back of our hotel...

 

Bill and Ternate final.JPGBill Bailey with Ternate in the distance
(Click images to see them full size)

 

For Wallace fans, Ternate is one of THE places to visit, because it was on this island (or possibly on the neighbouring island of Halmahera) in February 1858 that Wallace discovered the process of evolution by natural selection, whilst laying incapacitated with fever. After he had recovered enough to put pen to paper, he wrote an essay explaining his theory and posted it from Ternate together with a covering letter to Charles Darwin in Kent, England.

 

Wallace rented a house on Ternate for three years, which he used as a base to return to after voyages to distant islands in search of rare specimens. This house has become legendary, and although many have tried to locate it the site of it is still a bit of a mystery. Wallace writes that from his house, “five minutes’ walk down the road brought me to the market and the beach, while in the opposite direction there are no more European houses between me and the mountain”. He continues “ just below my house is the fort, built by the Portuguese”. This fort is called Benteng Oranye and it was built by the Dutch in 1607 on the foundations of an earlier Portuguese structure.

 

House they think is Wallaces.jpgBill & wallace alley final.JPG

Left: The building that the local people think is on the site of Wallace's house

Right: Bill in Wallace Alley

 

A house owned by a Chinese family has been identified by some as THE house, but it has the wrong orientation to the mountain, is too far from the fort, and the front garden is too large. We used the landmark of the fort to orientate ourselves and found a plot across the road and up-hill of the fort which is about the right size as the one that Wallace’s house would have occupied (his house was 40 feet in width and had a garden on either side of it). The width is of great relevance, because plots of land on which houses are built tend not to change in size over time. This plot is now occupied by a new two storey building owned by “Adira Finance”. It will probably never be possible to be 100% certain whether this is the actual site of the house, but we feel that we may be a step closer to finding the Wallace holy grail.

 

Possible site of ARWs house.jpg

The building we think might be on the plot where Wallace's house once stood

 

 

A short film about the location of Wallace's house
Filmed by Jan Beccaloni

Ternate final.JPGTernate at sunset
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Arrival in Sulawesi

Posted by Jan Beccaloni Aug 16, 2012

At last the day arrived to travel to Sulawesi, a weirdly-shaped island in Indonesia. The region is named Wallacea, after - you guessed it - Alfred Russel Wallace. We had a great flight, apart from the fact I was stuck next to a bad-tempered man with halitosis - on reflection, I think I’D PREFER TO HAVE TAKEN MY CHANCES strapped to the wing. It might have been a tad chilly, but it would have been more fragrant. Better luck next time. As we drove from the airport to the hotel, we were struck by the similarity of Sulawesi to Fiji - a highly humid, verdant and lush island, with numerous palms and towering volcanoes.  One of the volcanoes had a plume of smoke emerging from the crown - we should have taken this as a warning of what was to come...

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View of Manado with active volcano in distance (click images to see full size versions)

 

 

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Another view of Manado with yet another active volcano in distance

 

The following morning, I gradually surfaced through the layers of consciousness to George shaking me awake. I thought he’d got rather carried away, because the whole bed appeared to be shaking, so it must have been a dream. Reality soon kicked in however – we were actually experiencing our first earthquake!! As I leaped out of bed, I could feel the whole room moving from side to side. We rushed out of the room and headed for the emergency stairs. Our room was on the 9th floor so it was a long way down. As we rushed bare footed (there had been no time to put on foot wear) in fear of our lives, I felt that I was almost literally following in Wallace’s footsteps. He wrote the following about an earthquake he experienced near Manado in his book The Malay Archipelago:

 

“During my stay at Rurukan, my curiosity was satisfied by experiencing a pretty sharp earthquake-shock. On the evening of June 29th, at a quarter after eight, as I was sitting reading, the house began shaking with a very gentle, but rapidly increasing motion. I sat still enjoying the novel sensation for some seconds; but in less than half a minute it became strong enough to shake me in my chair, and to make the house visibly rock about, and creak and crack as if it would fall to pieces. Then began a cry throughout the village of "Tana goyang! tana goyang! "(Earthquake! earthquake!) Everybody rushed out of their houses--women screamed and children cried--and I thought it prudent to go out too. On getting up, I found my head giddy and my steps unsteady, and could hardly walk without falling. The shock continued about a minute, during which time I felt as if I had been turned round and round, and was almost seasick. Going into the house again, I found a lamp and a bottle of arrack upset. The tumbler which formed the lamp had been thrown out of the saucer in which it had stood. The shock appeared to be nearly vertical, rapid, vibratory, and jerking. It was sufficient, I have no doubt, to have thrown down brick, chimneys, walls, and church towers; but as the houses here are all low, and strongly framed of timber, it is impossible for them to be much injured, except by a shock that would utterly destroy a European city. The people told me it was ten years since they had had a stronger shock than this, at which time many houses were thrown down and some people killed.

 

At intervals of ten minutes to half an hour, slight shocks and tremors were felt, sometimes strong enough to send us all out again. There was a strange mixture of the terrible and the ludicrous in our situation. We might at any moment have a much stronger shock, which would bring down the house over us, or-- what I feared more--cause a landslip, and send us down into the deep ravine on the very edge of which the village is built; yet I could not help laughing each time we ran out at a slight shock, and then in a few moments ran in again. The sublime and the ridiculous were here literally but a step apart. On the one hand, the most terrible and destructive of natural phenomena was in action around us--the rocks, the mountains, the solid earth were trembling and convulsed, and we were utterly impotent to guard against the danger that might at any moment overwhelm us. On the other hand was the spectacle of a number of men, women, and children running in and out of their houses, on what each time proved a very unnecessary alarm, as each shock ceased just as it became strong enough to frighten us. It seemed really very much like "playing at earthquakes," and made many of the people join me in a hearty laugh, even while reminding each other that it really might be no laughing matter.”

 

We emerged into the hotel lobby covered with thick dirt from the emergency stairs and dressed only in night attire. I thanked my lucky stars that I had gone to bed in pyjamas, and not in the all-together! The hotel staff tittered politely behind their hands at the sight of two dirty and semi-naked orang putih (that’s Indonesian for white people). The tremors, which we discovered later were 5.1 on the Richter scale, had finally stopped, and so we reluctantly went back to our room. We discovered later that it was the first earthquake of the year, and that some of the staff had been a bit scared!

Bill & local boy final.JPGBill Bailey greeted by a local Manado boy
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