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Wallace100

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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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WLO.JPGWallace Letters Online (WLO), an online archive giving everyone access to the correspondence of Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, is launched today by comedian and naturalist Bill Bailey at the Natural History Museum. Bailey will also be launching Wallace100, a programme of events to mark the centenary of Wallace’s death, by unveiling an impressive portrait of Wallace in the Museum’s iconic Central Hall, near the famous statue of Darwin.

 

WLO brings together all surviving letters to and from Wallace, both personal and scholarly, for the first time. His unpublished correspondence is scattered across the collections of more than 100 institutions worldwide so it has been very difficult for people to study, until now.

 

Highlights in WLO include the fascinating letters he wrote and received during his epic trip to the Malay Archipelago between 1854 and 1862, and his complete correspondence with Charles Darwin, which has never been published in full before. Online materials will also include other important documents, such as Wallace's notebooks from the Museum’s Wallace Family Archive.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace is considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists of all time. Not only did he independently discover natural selection, he also founded the science of evolutionary biogeography; the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals.

 

He made significant contributions to academic fields as diverse as anthropology and epidemiology, and was an intrepid traveller and avid collector of natural history specimens who sent back thousands of species new to science from South America and south-east Asia.

 

About 4,500 letters to and from Wallace are known to survive, with more than half of these held in the collections of the Natural History Museum (1,200) and the British Library (1,600). The Wallace Correspondence Project has so far digitised about 95 per cent of the letters, and is searching for others hidden away in libraries and private collections around the world. Wallace Letters Online is the Web interface to the Wallace Correspondence Project's electronic database of Wallace's letters.

 

Dr George Beccaloni, Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project and a curator here at the Museum says, ‘Collating, transcribing and making this material freely available online marks a huge advance in understanding this great man. It presents a wealth of new information for those interested in Wallace’s life, work and beliefs. I hope it will help build a new and more accurate picture of him, and help to bring him out of Darwin's shadow.'

 

More details and highlights of WLO

 

WLO aims to catalogue and provide images and transcripts of all known letters sent to or written by Wallace (including the original envelopes and any enclosures), plus selected letters between others which contain important information pertaining to Wallace (e.g. a letter from Charles Darwin to Thomas Huxley which discusses Wallace). WLO also includes a selection of other important manuscript documents and other items which are not letters e.g. Wallace's notebooks in the Museum's Wallace Family Archive.

 

Current coverage

 

WLO currently contains records of 4,151 letters, of which 2,026 were written by ARW, 1,856 were sent to ARW and 269 are third party letters which pertain to ARW. It also contains details of 26 other documents such as notebooks.

 

WLO currently contains about 95% of Wallace's known surviving correspondence, including all of Wallace's early (pre. 1863) correspondence, and all of the surviving letters he sent or received during his epic trip to the Malay Archipelago between March 1854 and April 1862. It also includes the complete surviving Darwin-Wallace correspondence in full for the first time. Previous published compilations of the Darwin-Wallace letters (i.e. Darwin (1893), Marchant (1916)) are incomplete and the published transcripts were often heavily edited and sometimes suffer from important omissions of text.

 

Highlights of WLO

 

Note: If you would like to find an item in WLO (e.g. WCP4766), go to the Search Page and type the item number minus the "WCP" prefix (e.g. 4766), into the "WCP Number" search box.

 

To see the database entry for each highlight listed below, click the WCP number.

 

 

A) Letters

 

There follows a selection of key letters relating to some of Wallace's greatest discoveries: evolution by natural selection; the Wallace Line; and warning colouration.

 

Early life (1823-1848)

 

WCP346: Wallace to Henry Walter Bates, 28 December 1845. Wallace discusses his views of the book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation - the work which convinced him of the reality of evolution and started him on his quest to discover the mechanism which drives it.  For more information about this letter see here.

 

WCP348: Wallace to Bates, 11 October 1847. This letter contains his famous statement "I begin to feel rather dissatisfied with a mere local collection - little is to be learnt by it. I sh[ould]d like to take some one family, to study thoroughly - principally with a view to the theory of the origin of species. By that means I am strongly of [the] opinion that some definite results might be arrived at." This was the prelude to Wallace suggesting to Bates that they go on a expedition to Brazil to collect birds, butterflies and beetles in order to try to discover what drives the evolution of new species. For more information see here.

 

Four year expedition to the Amazon Basin (1848-1852)

 

WCP349: Wallace to Richard Spruce, 19 September 1852. "On Friday the 6th of August...about 9 o’clock in the morning just after breakfast the Captain (who was the owner of the vessel) came into the cabin & said "I am afraid the ship’s on fire. Come & see what you think of it"". After four years in Brazil, Wallace sailed back to England taking with him the most valuable part of the collection of natural history specimens he had made whilst there. Twenty-six days into the voyage, in the mid-Atlantic, the ship caught fire and sank, taking his specimens down with it. Wallace and the crew took to the lifeboats and miraculously, were rescued 10 days later. This letter describes the sinking.

 

Eight year expedition to the Malay Archipelago (1854-1862)

 

WCP1703: Wallace to his agent Samuel Stevens, 21 August 1856. This letter is the first mention of Wallace's famous discovery of what was later named the Wallace Line - the invisible boundary between the animals of Asia and the Australian region. He says "The Birds have however interested me much more than the insects, they are proportionally much more numerous, and throw great light on the laws of Geographical distribution of Animals in the East. The Islands of Baly & Lombock for instance, though of nearly the same size, of the same soil aspect elevation & climate and within sight of each other, yet differ considerably in their productions, and in fact belong to two quite distinct Zoological provinces, of which they form the extreme limits. As an instance I may mention the Cockatoos, a group of birds confined to Australia & the Moluccas, but quite unknown in Java Borneo Sumatra & Malacca. One species however (Plyctolophus sulphureus) is abundant in Lombock but is unknown in Baly, the island of Lombock forming the extreme eastern limit of its range & that of the whole family. Many other species illustrate the same fact & I am preparing a short account of them for publication." For more information see here.

 

WCP1454: Wallace to Joseph Dalton Hooker, 6 October 1858. This is the only letter which survives of those surrounding Wallace's discovery of natural selection and the subsequent publication of the theory with Charles Darwin. The letter illustrates Wallace's good nature and demonstrates that he was more interested in discovering new ideas than reaping personal glory from publishing them. For more information about the events surrounding Darwin and Wallace's joint publication on natural selection see here.

 

Later life in England (1862-1913)

 

WCP609: Charles Darwin to Wallace, 23 February 1867. Darwin and Wallace became good friends. In this letter Darwin writes "On Monday evening I called on Bates & put a difficulty before him, which he could not answer, & as on some former similar occasion, his first suggestion was, "you had better ask Wallace". My difficulty is, why are caterpillars sometimes so beautifully & artistically coloured?" Darwin was puzzled because his theory of sexual selection (where females choose their mates based on how attractive they are) would not apply to caterpillars  since they are immature.

 

Wallace replied the next day (WCP4083) with the suggestion that since some caterpillars "...are protected by a disagreeable taste or odour, it would be a positive advantage to them never to be mistaken for any of the palatable catterpillars, because a slight wound such as would be caused by a peck of a bird’s bill almost always I believe kills a growing catterpillar. Any gaudy & conspicuous colour therefore, that would plainly distinguish them from the brown & green eatable catterpillars, would enable birds to recognise them easily as at a kind not fit for food, & thus they would escape seizure which is as bad as being eaten.

 

Thus the concept of warning or aposematic colouration in animals was born.

 

WCP575: The Secretary of The Royal Society to Wallace, 6 November 1890. Informing Wallace (with unintended irony) that "... the Royal Society have awarded to you the Darwin Medal for your Independent Origination of the Theory of the Origin of Species by Natural Selection."

 

WCP543: The King's Private Secretary to Wallace, 2 November 1908. Informs Wallace that he is to be awarded the Order of Merit by the King "...in recognition of the great services which you have rendered to science." The Order is awarded by the ruling Monarch and is the highest civilian honour of Great Britain. It has been described as "...quite possibly, the most prestigious honour one can receive on planet Earth." There are only 24 living individuals in the Order at any given time, not including honorary appointees.

 

WCP4244: Wallace to the Biology Students at the University of Colorado, 12 January 1912. In this charming letter, Wallace aged 89 tells the students how "The wonders of nature have been the delight and solace of...[his]...life." and how "...nature has afforded...[him]...an ever increasing rapture, and the attempt to solve some of her myriad problems an ever-growing sense of mystery and awe". He ends by saying "I sincerely wish you all some of the delight in the mere contemplation of nature’s mysteries and beauties which I have enjoyed, and still enjoy."

 

B) Other documents

 

WCP4756: Wallace's personal annotated copy of the famous scientific paper he co-authored with Charles Darwin in 1858, in which the theory of evolution by natural selection was proposed for the first time. For more information about this historically important item see here.

 

WCP4766 and WCP4767: Wallace's two scientifically important 'Species Register' notebooks from his trip to the Malay Archipelago, which meticulously detail the species and specimens of insects, birds and other animals he collected on numerous islands he visited.

 

WCP4779 and WCP4806: Two of Wallace's address books, which cover the period from c. 1864 to his death in 1913, i.e. most of his adult life. Contacts listed include Charles Darwin, Rajah James Brooke (ruler of Sarawak) and hundreds of other, many of whom were very famous at the time.

 

The earlier of the address books was used by him between c. 1864 and c. 1872,  both for listing addresses and for recording his investments in shares etc. The investment records occupy one end of the book and the addresses start from the other end. Also in this book are some interesting lists, such as a list of the people which Wallace sent copies of his book The Malay Archipelago to when it was first published, and a list of "Persons to whom Hampden has abused me" (John Hampden was a flat earth believer who persecuted Wallace for very many years).

 

The second address book has been 'opened from both ends' like the first - with address lists running from one end, and notes about garden plants starting at the other end. There are four separate lists of addresses in this book, each of which is arranged from A to Z, and between each and the next address list are various notes and lists, some of which are historically quite important.

 

WCP4791: Wallace's Last Will and Testament.

 

References

 

 

Darwin, F. (Ed.). 1893. Charles Darwin; His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 365 pp.

 

Marchant, J. (Ed.). 1916. Alfred Russel Wallace; Letters and Reminiscences. London & New York: Cassell and Co. 2 vols., 507 pp.

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Wallace_and_the_bible_1 Large.jpg

*PLEASE NOTE (29/01/2013): All tickets for this talk have now been reserved*

 

As part of the Wallace100 celebrations taking part in 2013, the Museum will be hosting a monthly lecture series. These lectures are part of an international programme of projects and events celebrating the centenary of Wallace’s death on 7 November 2013.

 

At these monthly events, leading biologists and historians will discuss different aspects of Wallace’s life and work. The series also highlights the significance of the Museum as a focal point for Wallace collections and studies.

 

Tickets for the first of the Wallace100 lecture series are free and available to the public and Museum staff via the Museum website. The details are as follows:

 

Prof. Steve Jones, UCL - ‘Wallace and the Joy of Sects: Rewriting the Bible as a scientific text’.

 

17:00-18:00, 7 February 2013 in the the Natural History Museum's Flett Lecture Theatre

 

Join us for the first in the Museum's series of Wallace100 lectures celebrating the life and legacy of naturalist, and collector, Alfred Russel Wallace.

 

At this event, world-renowned geneticist Professor Steve Jones re-evaluates important biblical thinking from the perspective of Wallace's spiritually-based scientific interpretation.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) co-discovered the process of evolution by natural selection along with Charles Darwin, but he always felt there was something beyond evolution itself. Professor Jones explores the dilemmas raised by Wallace's evolutionary theories of natural selection in the light of Wallace's spiritual beliefs and examines how these questions align with science today and current religious precepts. In spite of the parallels drawn, Professor Jones surmises that in the end it may be that Darwin was closer to the truth than Wallace.


Wallace was certain that Homo sapiens had 'something which he has not derived from his animal progenitors - a spiritual essence or nature... (that) can only find an explanation in the unseen universe of Spirit.' However, Charles Darwin was dubious about such use of his ideas. Jones says: 'On balance, I go with Darwin, but Wallace still tells us something useful about ourselves.'


About Steve Jones


Steve Jones is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London, and has 30,000 pickled snails locked away in the Museum. He describes himself as a serial plagiarist, having tried to rewrite (or at least update) all the works of Charles Darwin for a modern audience. He has now embarked on the ultimate plagiarism: to rewrite the Bible as a scientific text, from the Big Bang to the heat death of the Universe (not to mention the whole of evolution and brain science)

 

Free tickets need to be booked in advance
Find out more and book your free tickets online
Doors open 16.30

 

Notes:

There will be no cloakroom facilities for this event and all items left in the NHM cloakrooms should be retrieved prior to the event. There are currently no lift facilities to the Flett Theatre. If you have any questions regarding access please contact m.rose@nhm.ac.uk

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

 

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

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

 

History of the painting

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

The artist

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Wallace photographed by Elliott & Fry in 1903.
© English Heritage
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WallaceBirthday.jpgToday is Alfred Russel Wallace's 190th birthday. To celebrate I have written a piece about the magnificent portrait of him that was donated to the Museum to mark his 100th birthday in 1923 (left, sans party hat). Once it is buffed and polished, it will appear on this blog at lunchtime so, in the meantime, why not read the following two contrasting articles: one written to mark his 88th birthday, and one written for his 188th birthday.

 

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

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A large area in Indonesia is named Wallacea after Wallace, but where did this word originate? According to Ernst Mayer (1944) the term was coined by Dickerson et al. in 1928. Wallacea is a biogeographical transition zone between the Australian region to the east, and the Oriental region to the west.

 

The mammals of the Australian region are mostly marsupials (e.g. kangeroos and cuscus), whilst the Oriental region only has placental mammals (like tigers, elephants and rhinos). The islands in Wallacea contain a mix of Australian and Oriental animals. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallacea

Indonesia_Wallacea.jpgWallacea, the heart of Indonesia. It encompasses islands which never had dry land connections to the main land masses of either the Australian region or the Oriental region. Consequently it has few animals which find it difficult to cross stretches of open ocean (e.g. land mammals, land birds, or freshwater fish of continental origin). [From Wikipedia]

 

References

 

Dickerson, R. E., Merrill, E. D., McGregor, R. C., Schultze, W., Taylor, E. H. & Herre, A. W. C. T. 1928. Distribution of life in the Philippines. Philippine Bureau of Science [Manila], Monograph No. 21: 322 pp.

 

Mayr, E. 1944. Wallace's Line in the light of recent zoogeographic studies. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 19(1): 1-14.

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Happy Wallace Year 2013 - Welcome to Wallace100!w100_black.SMALL.jpg

 

Museum Wallace News

 

  • The 8th of this month sees Wallace's 190th birthday and on the 24 January the Museum will launch its Wallace100 events programme at an invitation-only evening function. During the event the Wallace Correspondence Project's digital archive of Wallace's correspondence, Wallace Letters Online, will be officially launched by comedian and natural historian Bill Bailey.

    Bill will also unveil a magnificent oil painting of Wallace which will hang on the wall to the right of the Darwin statue on the main stairs of the Museum's Central Hall. This portrait was actually donated to the Museum in 1923 to commemorate Wallace's 100th birthday, and it hung in that exact location for 50 years until it was put into storage.
  • The first public Wallace100 event of the year will take place on the 25 January. It will be a Nature Live talk by myself and Caroline Catchpole about the Museum's unrivalled archive of Wallace's manuscripts.
  • The next of the Museum's Wallace100 events will be a public lecture by the well-known geneticist and science writer Steve Jones on the 7 February. His talk is entitled "Wallace and the Joy of Sects: Rewriting the Bible as a scientific text"  and, although it is free, you will need to book a ticket to attend. Steve's talk is the first of 10 monthly talks in the Museum's Wallace100 Lecture Series.
  • The campaign to raise funds for a life-size bronze statue of Wallace for the Museum unfortunately has to close at the end of this month. So far about £19,000 has been contributed by about 45 generous donors, which is enough to commission a twice-life-size portrait bust of Wallace *IF* the campaign fails to reach its £50,000 target. So, please consider donating (any sum large or small) and entering the Free Prize Draw

 

Other News

 

  • Richard Dawkins suggests we should celebrate Wallace's birth in the same way that we celebrate Christmas.
  • The Biological Journal of the Linnean Society has a FREE 'virtual' issue dedicated to Wallace - very appropriate given that the seminal paper by Darwin and Wallace on evolution by natural selection was published by the Society in 1858.
And Finally ...

 

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

DATE POSTED: 12 December 2012

 

w100_orange.SMALL.jpg

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

GraveOfJohnGreenell.jpg

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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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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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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A beautiful, small, hand-printed and hand-bound book is currently being produced by Tim Preston to mark next year's Alfred Russel Wallace anniversary. Tim's day job is in magazine publishing, and his hobby is also publishing - using a mechanical Albion hand printing press which dates from the 1870's (see photo below). Once the pages have been printed Tim will glue in all the illustrations and the books will then be professionally hand bound in cloth. Only 100 individually numbered copies will be produced and almost half have been reserved already. If you would like to reserve a copy then please contact Tim at timpress@me.com. Tim estimates that they will cost only about £50 GBP each - a bargain for a book that is entirely produced by hand!

 

Not only is the book special because of how it is being produced, but it will be of interest to scholars since all the letters featured in it have been carefully transcribed by Tim from the original manuscripts. This is the first time that accurate copies of all the original surviving correspondence relating to the publication of Wallace's Ternate essay has been published together in this way.

 

Another good reason to buy a copy is that Tim has kindly offered to give all profits from sales of the book to the Wallace Memorial Fund as a contribution to its campaign to raise money for a life-size bronze statue of Wallace for the Museum. The statue campaign needs all the help it can get as the deadline for fundraising is the end of January 2013, and there is still a massive £38,000 which needs to be found!

 

To advertise the book Tim has produced a postcard, the front and back of which are reproduced below.

 

LFT_photo_Advert.SMALL.jpgFront of the 'postcard'

 

LFT_text_Advert.SMALL.jpgBack of the 'postcard

 

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Tim's ancient Albion printing press


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Wallace's giant bee - a woodcut illustration for the book
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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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