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Wallace100

30 Posts tagged with the wallace100 tag
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WallaceConference.jpgAlfred Russel Wallace and his Legacy - Wallace100 conference

 

A free one day conference about Wallace will be held at the Museum on Wednesday 23 October 2013. This event is aimed at people who are interested in Wallace's natural history collections and want to find out more about the Wallace-related material kept in the Museum.

 

In the afternoon there will be a unique chance to join an exclusive tour of the Museum Library's Rare Books Room, showcasing manuscripts, artwork, publications and specimens collected by Wallace. Places are limited, so it is essential to book your place in advance. For more information and to register go to the Museum's Wallace conference webpage.

 

Note that the Museum's conference follows on from a two day discussion meeting about Wallace's legacy at The Royal Society, London, which is being held on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 October. This meeting will discuss Wallace's major scientific interests, including evolution, natural history, biogeography, animal colouration, sexual selection and astronomy. It will also examine current thinking on issues that preoccupied him, including his contributions to the social sciences. This event is intended for researchers in relevant fields. It is free to attend but places are limited.

 

Visit the Royal Society website for registration and more details.

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It will be broadcast this Sunday 28 April on BBC2 at 8 pm and will be available on BBC iPlayer not long afterwards. The first part was very highly praised, and in my opinion the second part is even better. Don't miss it!

 

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This month’s letter was written to Henry Eeles Dresser (1838-1915), an English ornithologist, on 28 April 1871 - a time when Wallace was well and truly settled back into life in England after his expeditions to the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago.

 

I chose this letter as it reveals not only information about the next big publication he was working on but also more about another great passion he had; building houses. Wallace lived in a fair few places throughout his life; on his return to England from the Malay Archipelago in 1862 he rented a few different properties in London, before building his first house, The Dell, in Grays Essex, living there from 1872-1876. He then moved again and rented three different houses, one in Surrey and two in Croydon, before building his second home Nutwood Cottage in Godalming Surrey, living there from 1881-1889. In 1889 he moved west to Dorset, renting and then buying Corfe View in Parkstone. He built his last home, Old Orchard in Broadstone, Dorset, and lived there from 1902 until his death in 1913.

 

His training as a land surveyor early on in his life no doubt had an enormous impact on his ability to plan his houses as he wanted them - his superb draughtsmen skills are reflected in some original plans we hold in the Wallace archive in the Museum’s library.

 

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Above: Ground plan of The Dell, by Wallace c. 1871 (WP4/1/3).

 

The Dell - the first house he built is the one he references in his letter to Dresser. He begins by apologising to him for not replying to a letter Dresser sent on the 6 February. He explains, “I obtained a piece of land I had been trying after for a year & a half, & have ever since been so busy clearing, roadmaking, & planting, & preparing for building a house, that insects, birds, & Geog. Distribution have alike been driven out of my head”

 

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Plan of the front view of The Dell, c.1871 (WP4/1/4).

 

It took a year to build the Dell and he moved in on 25 March 1872. Prior to this, he was renting a house in Barking, East London, which isn’t too far away from Grays. His move to Grays and desire to build a house was no doubt partly influenced by his young family. He had married Annie five years previous in 1866 and three children quickly arrived; Herbert in 1867, Violet in 1869 and William in 1871. A move to Grays, which was surrounded by countryside, whilst still being close to London by train for business, seemed the best of both worlds.

 

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The Dell, the first house Wallace built, once complete.

© A. R. Wallace Memorial Fund & G. W. Beccaloni

 

The Dell was one of the first houses in England to be built mainly of concrete, facilitated by a cement works nearby. The architect was Thomas Wonnacott of Farnham and it is the only house Wallace built that still survives - today it is privately owned but can still be seen from the road.  The Wallace Memorial Fund designed and paid for a commemorative Thurrock Heritage Plaque to be placed on The Dell in 2002. Quite timely for this blog post also is the fact that The Dell has just been put on the market. Anyone rich enough and who wanted to, could live in the house that Wallace built!

 

Whilst at The Dell, Wallace wrote and published one of his landmark texts - The Geographical Distribution of Animals: With a study of the Relations of Living and Extinct Faunas as Elucidating the Past Changes of the Earth’s Surface. It is also the other reason I chose this letter to feature as letter of the month. Wallace writes to Dresser, after urging him to write a paper on the “Birds of Scandinavia & Northern parts of the Palearctic Region”, that he expects he won’t have time until the autumn to “work at the subject of Geog. Distribution… when I hope to be settled in my new abode”.

 

In fact, Wallace wasn’t able to really start work on Geographical Distribution in earnest until 1874 due in part to problems with assembling the  taxonomic classifications for many types of animals, which were not clearly defined and in flux during this period. Philip Lutley Sclater had developed an earlier map showing the world distribution of birds which Wallace built on and expanded in his study to include mammals, reptiles and insects. Wallace's landmark text spilt the world into six distinct zoogeographic regions (known as Wallace's Realms) which are still in use today and he is known as the “father of evolutionary biogeography” because of his contribution to the founding of the subject.

 

Wallace had been observing the geographical distribution of species since his time in the Amazon from 1848-1852 and continued these observations in the Malay Archipelago. He would make notes during his travels on this topic and he gradually realised that the species of a particular region are generally more closely related to each other than they are to species in other regions. It was only realised much later that the reason that Wallace's Realms more-or-less correspond to the Earth's continents is a result of plate tectonics.

 

The ‘Wallace Line’, named in his honour, separates the zoogeographic regions of Asia and Australasia and was discovered by Wallace in June 1856 as he made the short 22 mile journey from Bali to Lombok. He observed many distinct differences amongst the animal species on the two islands. One example that illustrates the many differences he observed is the presence of cockatoo’s on Lombok, which were generally found to have a mainly Australasian distribution. No doubt his early surveying training also had a part to play in this work, as it gave him a keen sense of how things are spatially arranged.

 

The Wallace Collection pages on the Museum’s website features key items from the Wallace archive, including a section on architecture and plans of the three houses he built, as well as some observations made by Wallace on geographical distribution.

 

If you don’t already, then follow the Library and Archives on twitter, where we’re tweeting weekly about Wallace as part of the Wallace100 celebrations. Also watch out for the next instalment of Letter of the Month in May.

 

Caroline Catchpole, Wallace Correspondence Project

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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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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".

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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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."

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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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Press release: Natural History Museum marks centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace

DATE POSTED: 12 December 2012

 

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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.


Alfred Russel Wallace’s reaction to capturing a new butterfly in Indonesia in 1859.

 

Next year marks 100 years since the death of Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913), the often overlooked co-discoverer of the process of evolution by natural selection. He and Charles Darwin published the scientific article that first proposed the theory in 1858, one year before Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species came out. As the home of the world’s largest collection of Wallace’s specimens and manuscripts, the Natural History Museum is launching a programme of events to mark this significant anniversary, Wallace100.

 

Wallace is considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists of all time. Not only did he independently discover natural selection, but he founded evolutionary biogeography (the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals) and made many significant contributions to subjects as diverse as anthropology and epidemiology. He was also an intrepid traveller and an avid collector of natural history specimens, sending back many thousands of species new to science to the UK for further study.

 

Wallace100 launches on 24 January 2013 with comedian and naturalist Bill Bailey unveiling an impressive portrait of Wallace in the Museum’s iconic Central Hall, near the famous statue of Darwin. Over the summer, families can follow a Wallace Discovery Trail around the Museum to see some of Wallace’s most important specimens, and also take part in lively, interactive Nature Live talks about Wallace in the Attenborough Studio. For adults, there will be monthly lectures about Wallace’s life and work by leading biologists and historians. The lecture series opens on 7 February 2013, with Professor Steve Jones, world-renowned geneticist from UCL, and builds towards a landmark lecture on 7 November 2013, the anniversary of Wallace’s death. There will be live videoconferencing for schools as part of Wallace100, and the Museum’s website will offer a range of new information and resources, including access to Wallace’s letters, beautiful images from his collections, features on Wallace’s life and importance as a scientist, and a blog by the Museum’s Wallace expert Dr George Beccaloni.

 

Dr George Beccaloni, curator at the Natural History Museum and expert on Wallace says, ‘This anniversary is a great opportunity to raise awareness of Wallace’s ground-breaking scientific work, his valuable collections which are still being studied today, and his amazing adventures in South America and southeast Asia in search of the process responsible for generating the astonishing diversity of life on Earth. Wallace’s remarkable accomplishments are not as appreciated today as they were in his own lifetime, and are often overshadowed by Darwin’s. The events being organised by the Natural History Museum and other organisations in the UK and abroad as part of the Wallace100 celebrations will help to bring him out of Darwin’s shadow.’

 

Further information about Wallace100 is available from www.nhm.ac.uk/wallace100

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Wallace's genealogy

Posted by George Beccaloni Nov 15, 2012

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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The Wallace Memorial Fund has today sent out the Press Release below, appealing for funds for a magnificent and unique life-size bronze statue to commemorate the 100th anniversary next year of Wallace's death (7 November 2013). You can help the campaign in various ways e.g. by posting the text and images below on relevant websites and blogs, or telling potential donors about the campaign. Your help (in whatever way) would be very much appreciated. Wouldn't it be great to see the statue and think that you helped to make it a reality!

 

 

Discoverer of Natural Selection to finally get his statue (albeit 100 years late)

Statue of Alfred Russel Wallace to be commissioned for the Natural History Museum, 100 years after the project was scuppered by the First World War.


Alfred Russel Wallace was one of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century and when he passed away aged 90 in November 1913 plans were soon underway to commemorate his remarkable life. Fundraising began for a statue to be displayed at the Natural History Museum in London, but within a few months this was scuppered by the outbreak of the First World War and the project had to be abandoned.

 

One-hundred years on, the Wallace Memorial Fund has been revived and is attempting to raise £50,000 GBP to commission a life-sized bronze statue which it will donate to the Natural History Museum. It would be unveiled on 7th November 2013, to commemorate the centenary of Wallace's death. The piece would be sculpted by Anthony Smith; a zoology graduate-turned sculptor, who in 2009 created an acclaimed statue of Charles Darwin for Cambridge University.

 

The Wallace Fund has already received a generous donation of £10,000 GBP, but it needs to raise the remaining £40,000 GBP in just four months, in order to give the sculptor enough time to produce the work for the November 2013 unveiling.

 

British comedian Bill Bailey, the Wallace Memorial Fund's Patron, who is a long-time admirer of Wallace, appealed to everyone who loves natural history and science for donations. “Wallace was a maverick genius who deserves much greater recognition for his brilliant discoveries.” He continues, “The statue will be seen by many of the 4.5 million people who visit the museum each year and it will help raise awareness of this extraordinary man.”

 

BillBailey.jpg

Bill at the Natural History Museum, London, with a painting of Wallace and some of Wallace’s specimens. 
© Janet Beccaloni

 

The Natural History Museum is planning a big celebration of Wallace’s life and scientific legacy called Wallace100 which will be launched in January 2013. Wallace100 will culminate with the unveiling of the statue in November. Many other museums and other organisations worldwide are also planning Wallace events; with conferences in London, New York, Mexico, Gibraltar and Sarawak, Malaysia; museum exhibitions in London, Oxford, Wales, the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia; plus several books; and at least one TV documentary.

 

For more information about the statue, including details of how to donate, visit the Wallace Fund's website.


About Wallace:

 

ARW in 1869.jpgAlfred Russel Wallace in c. 1869 aged c. 46
© G. W. Beccaloni

 

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 - 1913) was one of the 19th century's most remarkable intellectuals. Not only did he co-discover the process of evolution by natural selection with Charles Darwin in 1858, but he also made very many other significant contributions, not just to biology, but also to subjects as diverse as glaciology, land reform, anthropology, ethnography, epidemiology, and astrobiology.

 

His pioneering work on evolutionary biogeography (the study of how plants and animals are distributed) led to him becoming recognised as that subject’s ‘father’. Beyond this, Wallace is regarded as the pre-eminent collector and field biologist of tropical regions of the 19th century, and his book The Malay Archipelago (which was Joseph Conrad’s favourite bedside reading) is one of the most celebrated travel writings of that century and has never been out of print.

 

The bulk of his remarkable collection of more than 120,000 specimens of insects, birds and other animals which he made in South-East Asia between 1854 and 1862, including over 5,000 species which were new to science, is cared for by the Natural History Museum. Hundreds of animal species have been named after him, including the spectacular bird-of-paradise Wallace's Standardwing from the Maluku Islands, Indonesia, and the recently discovered gremlin-like Wallace’s tarsier from Sulawesi Island, Indonesia.

 

Whilst Darwin came from a very wealthy background, Wallace struggled to support his passion for natural history and had to fund his tropical expeditions by selling specimens to collectors back home (Darwin included).

 

By the time of his death Wallace was probably the world’s most famous scientist, but since then his intellectual legacy has been overshadowed by that of Darwin (who, of course, already has a statue at the Natural History Museum).

 

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For more information please contact Dr George Beccaloni, Chairman of the Wallace Memorial Fund (Email: blaberus1@ntlworld.com or g.beccaloni@nhm.ac.uk).

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