20th century

2 Interesting Items on reading Marginalia (and a case study of Alfred Russel Wallace)

How do you react to marginalia? The gentle remarks, questions, or displays of disgust scribbled in the margins of innumerable books, articles and more across the world.

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3 Simple Steps you can do to help the “Alfred Russel Wallace in Translation” Project

Are you one of those talented people who can read/write a foreign language? Excellent, I have a simple but valuable favour to ask of you.
Why do I need you?
I am currently working on a project to try and bring together all known translations (especially contemporary ones) of the works of the co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). Already I have managed to uncover over 50 translations in 10 languages.
Unfortunately, as is necessary with a project like this, I am now increasingly reaching the stage where my own personal linguistic abilities are stretched.
This is especially the case for those languages which do not use latin/roman script (such as Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) However, whatever your linguistic strengths any help would be greatly appreciated.
The likelihood is that there are many other works I have missed in languages currently inaccessible to me. However, if you can read/write the language it will take you only a few minutes to find them. For me, however, it would take considerably longer or perhaps even not happen at all.

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TALK in London & Oxford: "Indefatigable Naturalists: Wallace and Darwin on the Evolutionary Trail" by Jim Costa

On 24 and 30 July 2014, Jim Costa will be delivering a paper on Wallace and Darwin entitled “Indefatigable Naturalists: Wallace and Darwin on the Evolutionary Trail” in both London and Oxford.

Here is the abstract:

Alfred Russel Wallace was the last of the great Victorian naturalists, and by the end of his long life in 1913 he was also one of the most famous scientists in the world, lauded by leading learned societies, British royalty and US Presidents alike. Against all odds—lacking wealth, formal education, social standing or connections—Wallace became the pre-eminent tropical naturalist of his day. He founded one entirely new discipline—evolutionary biogeography—and, with Darwin, co-founded another: evolutionary biology. Yet today Darwin’s name is universally recognised, while Wallace is all but unknown. Jim traces the independent development of Wallace’s and Darwin’s evolutionary insights, exploring the fascinating parallels, intersections and departures in their thinking.

Drawing on Wallace’s “Species Notebook” (the most important of Wallace’s field notebooks kept during his southeast Asian explorations of the 1850s) Costa puts Wallace’s thinking into a new light in relation to that of his more illustrious colleague. He also examines the ups and downs of Wallace’s relationship with Darwin, and critically evaluates the misleading “conspiracy theories” that Wallace was wronged by Darwin and his circle over credit for the discovery of natural selection. Tracing the arc of Wallace’s reputation from meteoric rise in the 19th century to virtual eclipse in the 20th, Costa restores Wallace to his proper place in the limelight with Darwin.

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PAPER: "Prometheus Unbound?: Alfred Russel Wallace, Vaccination Acts and the ‘Progress Problem’ in the late-Nineteenth Century" by Ahren Lester

I have just made my paper entitled “Prometheus Unbound?: Alfred Russel Wallace, Vaccination Acts and the ‘Progress Problem’ in the late-Nineteenth Century” available on Academia.edu. Here is the abstract:

The numerous Vaccination Acts passed between 1840 and 1907 were innovations in every sense of the word. They heralded a new approach to the role of the state in the population’s health. They consolidated the new relationship between the state and medical science. They also ultimately brought forth a new term: ‘conscientious objector.’ For us—sitting in the comfort of the twenty-first century—this innovation was unquestionably a boon to humanity. Smallpox is all but eradicated. In this regard, state-directed schemes such as the Vaccination Acts were key vectors of this victory over one of the great scourges of humanity.

Nonetheless, a significant minority of the population vehemently opposed the Vaccination Acts. Their ranks did contain a number of cranks and charlatans. However, they also included well-respected scientific figures whose opposition was genuine and at least partly justified. One such figure was the co-discoverer of natural selection with Darwin: Alfred Russel Wallace.

This paper considers why Wallace was opposed to such an apparently beneficent procedure. He was no anti-science anti-innovator. Instead he provided a compelling critique of a scientific innovation we take for granted today. He questioned the virtue of state medicine. He questioned the growing power and unaccountability of the medical profession. He questioned their statistical evidence (in the process offering an innovative fully-statistical assessment of the value of a medical procedure).

What emerges is a genuine concern for what may be termed ‘medical ethics.’ This developed from Wallace’s broader belief—unusual at the time—that scientific innovation did not inherently represent a cut-and-dry case of ‘progress.’ Scientific innovations had to be weighed against deeper political, social and ethical considerations. This stance—controversial at the time—appears comparatively commonplace today. Wallace’s prescience reflects a mature and self-conscious appreciation of potential problems of scientific progress in regards to man.

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UPDATED: 23 Digital Humanities research resources you should know about

UPDATED on 8 July 2014: I have added a few new resources to the “Multiple Resources” and “Newspapers and Periodicals” sections.

I will be using this page to include any references to online resources and databases that I come across in my research and which I think are useful. This will updated as and when I (or indeed you) come across anything new.

If you have any contributions you think should be included either leave a comment or contact me directly either through the comments section or by email through the contact page. (more…)

TALK in Cardiff: "Shedding new light on Alfred Russel Wallace’s insect specimens" by Dr George Beccaloni

Do you want to know more about Alfred Russel Wallace and his entomological collections? If so, you’re in luck.

The entomologist and Director of the Wallace Fund, Dr George Beccaloni, is to deliver a paper entitled: “Shedding new light on Alfred Russel Wallace’s insect specimens” in Cardiff on 25 June 2014. Here is the abstract:

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) is best known as being the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection and the ‘father’ of zoogeography, however, he was also one of the greatest collectors of tropical insects and other animals of the 19th century. Wallace collected specimens for his private collection and also on a commercial basis for four years in Brazil and eight years in South-East Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and East Timor). During the latter expedition he shipped back almost 110,000 insects to the UK, many of which were species new to science. My talk will give an overview of the insect specimens Wallace collected and where they are now. I will also discuss how my study of his data labels and collecting notebooks (recently digitised as part of the Wallace Correspondence Project) has shed new light on where and when the specimens were collected, adding much to their scientific value.

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Finding 50 Years of "Punch; or, the London Charivari" Digital Archives

One of my favourite 19th and 20th century publications is the satirical magazine Punch. However, it is often hard to find the volumes for the magazine despite the fact that most are available somewhere online. As a result, I have tried to compile a list of the volumes I have found over time.

Currently I have only compiled them for the period to which I am chiefly concerned (from 1870 to 1919). However, if I have time or the inclination this may well expand. (more…)

Book Review: "Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing, 1848–1930" by Christine Ferguson

I have just had a book review published in the British Journal for the History of Science.*

It is Christine Ferguson’s excellent Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing, 1848–1930 published by Edinburgh University Press.

For those of you working in the area of occult studies it is a very interesting book. Similarly for those interested in eugenics theory, racial, spiritualism and more besides in (chiefly) the nineteenth-century it is filled with valuable insights.

*You can read it either from my Academia.edu page or from the BJHS site.

PAPER: ‘Empire on the Eastern Sea’: the Influence of Asian and Western Imperialism on National Identity Formation in Japan and China

My paper on the role of Western imperialism in the formation of national identity in Japan and China entitled ‘Empire on the Eastern Sea’: the Influence of Asian and Western Imperialism on National Identity Formation in Japan and China has just been published in volume 4 of Emergence with the theme of Interactions and Identity.


You can read it on my Academia.edu page or from the Emergence website.