Alfred Russel Wallace

Paper: Homing In: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Homes in Britain (1852 to 1913)

I have just made my illustrated article on Alfred Russel Wallace’s homes in Britain available online.

This article–published in The Linnean, vol. 30, no. 2 (October 2014)–set out to fix with a greater degree of accuracy where and when he lived at each home. The intention is that this will act as the first stage of a larger study of how his choice of residence affected his thinking–if indeed it did.

Anybody who has an interest in a similar project with another individual or with Wallace, please do contact me. I would be very interested to hear what you have done or are doing.

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Forthcoming Book: "Dear Sir: Sixty-Nine Years of Alfred Russel Wallace Letters to the Editor" edited by Charles H. Smith and Kelsey Patterson

Leading Wallace scholar, Charles H. Smith of Western Kentucky University, is just finalising a new publication edited by himself along with Kelsey Patterson.

The book will include over 200 letters to the editor by Alfred Russel Wallace published between 1845 and his death in 1913. (more…)

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: A new(ish) book on Wallace in French: "Alfred Russel Wallace, plus darwiniste que Darwin mais politiquement moins correct" by Jacques Reisse


UPDATED: I received the book this morning (1 July) and have updated the post below adding the table of contents as promised.

Mooching around the library catalogue of the National Library of Armenia (as you do…) I came across a new book (published in 2013) in French on Alfred Russel Wallace I must have missed.

It is by Jacques Reisse* and titled Wallace: Alfred Russel Wallace, plus darwiniste que Darwin mais politiquement moins correct (available both as an eBook and a hard copy) and was published by the Academie Royale de Belgique.

I am quite excited about this. The interest in Wallace in Francophone countries continues to grow. Only recently a French translation of Peter Raby’s excellent Alfred Russel Wallace: A Life  was published as Alfred R. Wallace, l’explorateur de l’évolution (2013) with a welcome and interesting introduction by the philosopher and historian of science, Jean Gayon.

This growing Francophone interest is important because they clearly have a different perspective on Wallace, Darwin and the history of evolution and science more generally. These fresh perspectives are to be very warmly welcomed especially when considering the more heterodox thinking of Wallace. (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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TALK in Croydon: "Alfred Russel Wallace as Social Reformer" by Prof. David Stack on 26 June 2014

There is a talk being given in Croydon on 26 June 2014 by Prof. David Stack on the University of Reading on “Alfred Russel Wallace as Social Reformer”. The abstract reads:

South Croydonian Alfred Russel Wallace developed a theory of evolution but was beaten into print by Charles Darwin. As well as a leading scientist he was an active social reformer on issues like land nationalisation and anti-smallpox vaccination. Prof. Stack will discuss Wallace as social reformer.

Wallace lived in Croydon from March 1878 to 5 May 1881, first on Duppas Hill Lane and then St Peter’s Road.  During this period he developed his interest in Land Nationalisation and co-founded and was the inaugural president of the Land Nationalisation Society.
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Alfred Russel Wallace, the Royal Society and the HMS Challenger Expedition (1872-1876)

George Beccaloni of the Natural History Museum and Wallace Fund has published a short post about Wallace’s involvement with the famous HMS Challenger science expedition which took place in the 1870s.*

Wallace was sent a copy of the ‘deep sea deposits’ volume of the Challenger report which was edited by the oceanographer–as opposed to the publisher–John Murray.^

George then discovered that Wallace’s involvement with the Challenger expedition went deeper than just personal correspondence with the Challenger project members. He was also appointed as a member of the committee for the expedition back on 21 March 1872. Indeed, as Charles Smith has noted, Nature published a note of his membership of the committee on 31 October 1872. (more…)