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Record number: WCP4149

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Arthur Smith Woodward
21 April 1907

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Old Orchard, Broadstone, Wimborne, Dorset to Arthur Smith Woodward [none given] on 21 April 1907.

Record created:
27 March 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4149.4170)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
University College London Special Collections
Finding number:
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

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Transcription information




Broadstone, Wimborne

April 21st. 1907

A. Smith Woodward1

Dear Sir

Many thanks for the Papers you have been so good as to send me. That one "The Study of Fossil Fishes" - is one of the most interesting and instructive I have read for a long time, throwing much light on a very difficult subject.

The other, on the "Relations of Paleontology to Biology", does not so much appeal to me, since you adopt a view of Evolution that seems to me, not only [[2]] altogether unnecessary for a clear comprehension of the facts, but also one that is altogether erroneous - the so-called "Mutation" theory of DeVries2. Much of the error on this subject is due to the use of terms that are misjustified by knowledge. In both your papers you continually speak of "sudden" changes of structure or type.

But how can you possibly have any such accurate knowledge of lapse of time in remote geological epochs as to justify the use of such a term? It implies the [[3]] very thing you admit to be non-existent - a continuous geological record! Your "sudden", may be a lapse of 100,000, or many millions of years, during which vast biological & physical and biological changes may have occurred necessitating the changes of organisation that you describe.

Excuse this strong expression of opinion, but I consider DeVries' Theory so completely wrong and so wholly opposed to any sound reasoning on the facts of variation and of the struggle for existence, [[4]] that I am amazed to see how many of the younger Biologists have adopted it, and have supported it by ludicrously exaggerated claims and utterly inconclusive reasoning. The theory utterly fails to account for the marvellous & intricate adaptations in organised beings, which normall variation, rapid increase, & the severity of the struggle for life, inevitably[sic] bring about.

Yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


1. Arthur Smith Woodward (1864 - 1944), paleontologist.

2. Hugo Marie de Vries (1848 - 1935), Dutch botanist and developed the mutation theory of evolution.

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