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Historian of Science Dr John van Wyhe (National University of Singapore), officially launched his Wallace Online website today. Wallace Online is the first complete edition of Wallace's published writings (22 books and over 900 articles). It also contains records of manuscript items extracted from a number of electronic catalogues - such as the NHM's Archives Catalogue - which means that these can be conveniently searched using a single interface. Although transcripts of most of Wallace's publications have been available for many years on Charles Smith's Wallace Page website, Wallace Online also includes scans of the actual documents, which - in the same way as Darwin Online - can be viewed either by themselves or side-by-side with the relevant transcript. Wallace Online's major novelty is, however, that it includes the publications in which the huge number of new species of insects, birds etc which Wallace collected on his epic expedition to South-East Asia were described (given scientific names) by other naturalists.


Next month will see the 'soft launch' of the Wallace Correspondence Project's database of Wallace's letters, The Correspondence of Alfred Russel Wallace Online. This, together with Wallace Online, will provide an amazingly complete Wallace resource which will be invaluable for exploring and studying his extraordinary life and work.


For a nice article about the launch of Wallace Online see Ian Sample's article in the Guardian newspaper.


Articles about the Wallace Memorial Fund's campaign to raise funds to commission a bronze statue of Wallace for the Natural History Museum have been published on the BBC Wales website and in the South Wales Argus - a newspaper that covers the 'Wallace heartland' of southern Wales.


Anthony Smith, the sculptor the Fund will employ to create the statue has just been commissioned by the Royal Mint to design a new £2 coin. His design will be going into circulation later this year. Perhaps it will feature a portrait of Wallace!? Well, perhaps not...


To see an article about the 'original' Wallace Memorial Fund's efforts to raise funds for a statue of Wallace for the Museum visit the Nature journal's website.


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


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


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

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

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.”



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).




For more information please contact Dr George Beccaloni, Chairman of the Wallace Memorial Fund (Email: or


Bill Bailey is currently on tour in the Antipodes. Check out this great blog post about Bill's recent behind-the-scenes visit to the Melbourne Museum. Blimey Cobber! They have some bonzer Wallace specimens there as well!


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


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


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


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


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

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

Right: Bill in Wallace Alley


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


Possible site of ARWs house.jpg

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



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

Ternate final.JPGTernate at sunset

One of the many great things about travelling to the more remote parts of the World, is the opportunity to sample the local cuisine. One may argue that you need never leave London, because its wonderful multi-cultural way of life means that you can get a spicy Indian curry, a salsa-laden Mexican fajita and a rather humble cheese sandwich all in the same short stretch of road. But nothing beats actually being in the country of origin.


Wallace ate a great many weird-and-wonderful  things during his travels in the Malay Archipelago, and he often writes with great enthusiasm about his culinary experiences. Whilst in Sulawesi (Celebes) he was invited to the house of a chief. He writes: 


“The dinner was excellent. Fowls cooked in various ways, wild pig roasted, stewed and fried, a fricassee of bats, potatoes, rice and other vegetables, all served on good china, with finger glasses and fine napkins, and abundance of good claret and beer, seemed to me rather curious at the table of a native chief on the mountains of Celebes”.


All seems unremarkable in this description, until you spot the ‘fricassee of bats’! This is not something you would encounter in the suburbs of Merton, for sure.  Well - maybe you would encounter the ‘fricassee’ bit, which is chopped meat stewed in gravy. Clearly, I don’t come from a posh background, as I call stewed meat, stewed meat - not fricassee...

LocalSulawesiHouse.jpgThe local 'restaurant'


Of course, being a game type of chap, and wanting to experience as much as he could of Wallace’s travels, Bill Bailey accepted an offer to try this local ‘delicacy’. So we travelled up the road from the lodge where we were staying, to a traditional sturdily-built thatched wooden house. A small fire was constructed in the nicely-swept dirt backyard, and a spicy ‘gravy’ of coconut milk, spices and chillies was prepared in a large metal pot, before the unfortunate bat (which are sold in the local markets) was popped in. After being simmered for 20 minutes or so, the bat was ready.


Fricasse of bat final.JPG

Fricassee of bat being cooked


Bat is considered by the locals to taste very much like rat, but given that this flavor ‘benchmark’ is unfamiliar to most Europeans, one needed to sample the bat in person. Bill manfully ate a decent sized portion. Chewing on the wing membrane, Bill remarked that it was like eating a musty old umbrella - yum! Being one to try most things at least once, I decided to try the bat too. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be - it tasted very much like ostrich. However, given that this comparison might also be fairly useless, as not everyone has eaten that beast either, I will describe it as a cross between chicken (doesn’t everything taste of chicken?) and liver. I have to say that I was glad not to have to eat my way through the entire dish!


Bill eating bat final.JPG

Bill eating the fricassee



The species of fruit bat which Bill ate is a common and geographically very widespread one. For a recent article on the ethics of eating such things see


Tangkoko beach.JPGTangkoko National Park is located North-east of Manado on the northern tip of Sulawesi. It was here in 1859 that Wallace came to collect the strange maleo bird (Macrocephalon maleo) which used to nest on the black volcanic sand beach there. Maleos are unique amongst birds in that they bury their eggs in a deep hole and leave them to hatch. There is no parental care and the young are able to fly and forage for themselves, soon after they have burrowed their way to the surface of the sand.


The eggs are huge - 5 times the size of a chicken’s egg - and they are (unfortunately) a favorite food of the local people. Egg collecting, together with the hunting of the birds and habitat destruction, accounts for the fact that the maleo is now an endangered species. It is extremely rare at Tangkoko and no longer nests on the beach where Wallace says that many hundreds came to lay their eggs. It was a special experience to stroll along the black sand  (image to the left) peppered with white coral fragments and imagine Wallace walking just ahead of us.


Bill, Jan and I spent a few days at Tangkoko to look for some of the other peculiar animals which are endemic to Sulawesi and which are relatively easy to see there. We were very fortunate in having close encounters with the rare Sulawesi black crested macaque (Macaca nigra), only 2,000 of which still survive and which are tragically eaten as bush meat by the locals. Although fearsome-looking with their fiery-coloured eyes and massive teeth, crested macaques are actually rather gentle creatures which are more interested in peering at their reflections in shiny surfaces and checking us out.


Macaque final.JPGBill and macaque final.JPG

Left: Macaque. Right: Bill Bailey and Macaques
(Click images to see them full size)


We were also very keen to see the nocturnal spectral tarsier (Tarsius tarsier). Our guide took us to a tree which is visited by tourists at dusk, in order to view the tarsiers up-close-and-personal. Initially, we were rather skeptical that we would see any animals there, because there was literally a queue of people waiting by the tree, cameras in hand. However, our fears were unfounded because the tarsiers that hang-out there are totally habituated, and are very used to noise and the light from camera flashes and torches. Plus, we had not accounted for their biggest passion in life - tasty, big, fat, green bush crickets. The guide placed the said insect on a branch outside the tarsier’s lair, and in the blink of an eye, a tarsier had leaped out from the inside of the tree and grabbed the poor cricket. It then took it back to the safety of its tree hole home, and greedily gobbled it down with relish!


Tarsier final.JPGTarsier


The diurnal bear cuscus (Ailurops ursinus) proved to be a much more elusive quarry. We only caught a glimpse of a pair which sleepily gazed down at us from the top of a tree. Sulawesi is the western-most place in the world where marsupials such as cuscuses occur. All the mammals to the west of Sulawesi and Wallace’s Line (which passes between Sulawesi and Borneo) are placental mammals. As mentioned in an earlier post, Sulawesi is part of a biogeographical transition zone named Wallacea after you-know-who, and it contains a confusing mix of both Oriental animals (e.g. tarsiers, macaques) and Australian animals (e.g. cuscuses and maleos).


Bill and flowers final.JPG

Bill tries on some forest flowers for size

Arrival in Sulawesi

Posted by Jan Beccaloni Aug 16, 2012

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

Manado final.JPG

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



Manado2 final.JPG

Another view of Manado with yet another active volcano in distance


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


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


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


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

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

I am heading off to Wallacea on Sunday 29th July for three weeks to assist comedian Bill Bailey with a documentary he is presenting about - you guessed it - Alfred Russel Wallace. My wife Jan will also be on the trip. Her job is to make a video diary of our exploits and also take photos which can be used by the Museum for Wallace100-related events next year. Jan, by the way, is the Museum's Curator of Arachnida and Myriapoda i.e. she manages the national collection of pickled spiders, centipedes, scorpions and their relatives. It often amuses me to think that Jan and I work on some of the most feared and loathed groups of animals (cockroaches are my speciality) - we make a perfect couple!


Bill, who Jan and I have known for about four years, is very interested in natural history -birds in particular- and is a big fan of Wallace. He often goes to Southeast Asia on holiday and it was on one such trip, many years ago, that he read Wallace's book The Malay Archipelago and became captivated by its author.

Bill next to the Museum's excellent oil painting of Wallace (which can be seen on the DC2 Cocoon tour).
Photo by George Beccaloni. © Natural History Museum


Bill wants to tell the world about Wallace's amazing life and work, and in particular he wants to put the record straight - that the theory of evolution by natural selection wasn't conceived by Charles Darwin alone, but it was instead jointly published in August 1858 (fifteen months before Darwin's book On the Origin of Species) by Darwin AND Wallace.


So what is Wallacea I hear you ask? It is the heart of the region Wallace called the Malay Archipelago, and it includes the large weirdly-shaped island of Sulawesi, as well as Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Timor, Halmahera, Buru, Seram, and many smaller islands - nearly all of which are part of Indonesia. Wallacea is named after Wallace and 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 wombats), 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, the heart of Indonesia. Wallacea 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]


During our three weeks in Wallacea we plan to visit three of the most important Wallace-realated places in the whole of the Malay Archipelago: Sulawesi, Halmahera and Ternate. It was on Sulawesi that Wallace received his first ever letter from Darwin, starting a chain of correspondence which would ultimately lead to his theory of natural selection being co-published with Darwin. The "earthquake-tortured island of Ternate", as Wallace charmingly called it, is the place from which he posted his famous 'Ternate paper', which detailed his theory of natural selection, to Darwin in 1858. Halmahera, which is a large island very close to the much smaller island of Ternate, is home to the most incredible of all the 5000 of so species of animals new to science which Wallace collected in the Malay Archipelago i.e. Wallace's standardwing bird of paradise, Wallace's golden birdwing butterfly and Wallace's giant bee. We are fairly likely to see the first, less likely to spot the second, and very unlikely to come apon the third.


Keep reading this blog to find out how we get on!



Wallace's standardwing bird of paradise (Semioptera wallacei) - male in front, female behind. Wallace regarded this species as his greatest zoological discovery. This illustration is from The Malay Archipelago.
© Wallace Memorial Fund

Ornithoptera croesus.jpg


A male of Wallace's golden birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera croesus). Wallace writes the following about his capture of this species in his book The Malay Archipelago: “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.”
© Natural History Museum

Wallace's giant bee (Chalicodoma pluto) is the largest bee in the world. Females (like the one above) have huge jaws which they use to collect tree resin to line their nests, which they excavate in arboreal termite nests. For more information see
© Wallace Memorial Fund

Sreela Banerjee of the Pyr Project wrote to tell me about a brilliant song the project has recently produced about Wallace. It is called 'Wallace was a very busy man' - and it is sung by the Charles Matthews Singers, who are children mostly from Mickleton Primary School, in Gloucestershire. To hear it click here and then on "The Wallace song" (or simply download the .mp3 directly). The words can be read in this PDF and the music can be found here. There are some nice resources for kids about Wallace, the Wallace Line, and Wallace's world, on the project's "Resources" page.


This must be the first song ever written about Wallace - the only other I know which even mentions him is this one.



Posted by George Beccaloni Jul 26, 2012

Welcome to the Wallace100 blog! One of its main functions is to keep readers up-to-date with the many exciting Wallace-related activities which are being planned by the Natural History Museum and others around the world to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death in 2013. The blog will also have posts on a diverse array of other Wallace-related things, ranging from anecdotes about Wallace's life, to stories about notable natural history specimens he collected during his epic eight year expedition to the Malay Archipelago (i.e. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia).


Since I will probably be writing most of the posts for this blog, I guess I should introduce myself. I am the chap in the middle in the photo below. You may recognise the other two Wallace aficionados with me - Sir David Attenborough on the left,  and comedian (and natural historian!) Bill Bailey on the right. Sir David is the Patron of the Wallace Correspondence Project of which I am Director, and Bill is the Patron of the Wallace Memorial Fund  of which I am Chairman.


I spend 80% of my time at the Museum working as the Curator of Orthopteroidea (i.e. looking after the huge national research collection of cockroaches, grasshoppers and related insects), and 20% of my time working on the Wallace Correspondence Project. If for some reason you would like more information about me then see my out-of-date (must get that changed!) online CV here.



David Attenborough (left), George Beccaloni (centre) & Bill Bailey (right) in the Central Hall of the Natural History Museum, London. Photo. by Jan Beccaloni.


My interest in Wallace started when I was working on my PhD in the early 1990's (I was based here at the Museum in the now demolished old Entomology building). One of the subjects I studied was the evolution of mimicry in glasswing butterflies - a group which lives in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. Reading about the theories which have been proposed to explain the function and evolution of animal colours I was struck by how great a contribution Wallace made to this field. I then discovered that he was the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of nothing less than the theory of evolution by natural selection - a fact that even many biologists don't seem to know!


From that point I was hooked and wanted to learn as much as I could about his life and work, and more than 20 years later I am still learning fascinating things about him all the time. Unfortunately Wallace has been relatively neglected by historians of science and no comprehensive biography about him has been written so far. Hopefully a lot more people will become interested in him as a result of the 2013 Wallace year.


If you want to find out more about Wallace then check out the websites mentioned above, plus the following:


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