Alfred Russel Wallace
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Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) “A prisoner of scientific parentheses, as in, "the theory of evolution by natural selection proposed by Charles Darwin (and also by Alfred Russel Wallace).”’. Childhood. Born in Usk, a small town in Wales.

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Alfred russel wallace 1823 1913 a prisoner of scientific parentheses as in the theory of evolution by natural selecti 1225609

Alfred Russel Wallace(1823-1913)“A prisoner of scientific parentheses, as in, "the theory of evolution by natural selection proposed by Charles Darwin (and also by Alfred Russel Wallace).”’



  • Born in Usk, a small town in Wales.

  • Eighth of nine children of Thomas and Mary Anne Wallace.

  • Father- earned a law degree; never practiced as an attorney.

  • Family fell on hard times early in Wallace’s life.

  • 1836: Wallace forced to withdraw from grammar school at age 13; sent to London to live with older brother, John.

Surveying 1837 1843

Surveying (1837-1843)

  • After a few months in London, Wallace left to become an apprentice under his oldest brother, William.

  • Trained to become a surveyor.

  • Learned trades such as map-making, geometry, and trigonometry.

  • Learned to be a very keen observer of his surroundings.

  • Became fond of the outdoors, particularly in botany and geology.

  • Let go by his brother after a period of financial difficulties.

Collegiate school at leicester 1843 1845

Collegiate School at Leicester (1843-1845)

  • Applied for a teaching position and was hired.

  • Taught drafting, surveying, English, and arithmetic.

  • Reads Malthus’ “An Essay on the Principle of Population”

  • Met Henry Walter Bates, a young naturalist.

  • Bates introduced the practice of collecting specimens to Wallace.

  • After reading about the travels of other accomplished naturalists such as Charles Darwin, Wallace and Bates decided to travel to the Amazon.

Collegiate school at leicester

Collegiate School at Leicester

Exploration of the amazon 1848 1852

Exploration of the Amazon (1848-1852)

  • Wallace primary goal in the Amazon was to collect specimens.

  • Interested in studying “biological evolution”, an idea introduced by Robert Chambers in “The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation”

  • Aside from collecting, Wallace took notes on the regions geography, wildlife, and even the inhabitants and their languages.

  • On his way back to England, Wallace’s boat caught fire and sank; taking with it the majority of Wallace’s work in the Amazon.

  • Wallace and his crew rescued by a passing cargo ship. Journey across the Atlantic took nearly three months.

Back in england

Back in England

  • Despite losing most of his specimens and notes from his travels, Wallace was able to publish two books upon his return to England.

  • “Palm Trees of the Amazon and Their Uses”

    • A study on the plant life in the Amazon.

  • “A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro”

    • An account of Wallace’s four years in South America

  • Correspondence with Charles Darwin.

Travel in the east indies 1854 1862

Travel in the East Indies (1854-1862)

  • Malay Archipelago: modern day Malaysia and Indonesia

  • Traveled almost 14,000 miles on a number of expeditions in the region; visited every island in the archipelago at least once.

  • Collected over 125,000 specimens, including around a thousand that had never been discovered before.

  • “Rhacophorus nigropalmatus”- Wallace’s flying-frog

  • “The Malay Archipelago” (1869): dedicated to Darwin.

Wallace s flying frog

Wallace’s Flying Frog



  • Founder of biogeography

  • Recognized the six great biogeographical regions on Earth.

  • “Wallace Line”: imaginary line separating Asia and Australia

Natural selection

Natural Selection

  • Makes a connection between Malthus’ ideas on population growth and evolution.

  • “Survival of the fittest”: most fit organisms survive and pass their genes onto future generations.

  • “On the Tendencies of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type” (1858): sent to Darwin

  • Lyell and Hooker present Wallace’s essay along with some of Darwin’s writings at the Linnaen Society on July 1, 1858.

Darwin vs wallace

Darwin vs. Wallace

  • Darwin- “Natural Selection”

  • Wallace- “Survival of the Fittest”, “Adaptation”

  • Darwin considered sexual selection as a separate phenomenon; Wallace believed it was a form of natural selection.

  • Darwin believed in the inheritance of acquired traits

  • Wallace rejected Lamarck’s idea

  • Darwin stressed that competition was the cause of natural selection.

  • Wallace emphasized that environmental pressures forced species to adapt to their surroundings.



  • Wallace became a spiritualist in the late 1860’s.

  • Human’s “higher attributes” could not have resulted from natural selection.

  • Ideas were strongly rejected by Darwin, but were endorsed by Darwin’s good friend Charles Lyell.

  • Wallace’s scientific reputation was destroyed by his association with Spiritualism.

Social activism

Social Activism

  • Exposed to the ideas of social reformers such as Robert Owen and Thomas Paine while living in London early in his life.

  • Social comments in “The Malay Archipelago” drew the attention of notable economists/socialists such as John Stuart Mill.

  • Supported labor movements: argued for overtime pay

  • Supporter of women’s suffrage and a paper money system

  • Argued against militarism and imperialism

  • Anti-vaccination campaign

  • Endorsed Socialism



  • Over 750 publications; 22 full-length books

  • “The Malay Archipelago” (1869)

  • “Darwinism” (1889)

    - Defense of natural selection

    - Gave priority on the subject to Darwin

    - “Wallace effect”: natural selection against hybrids creating two reproductively isolated populations; speciation

  • “Remarks on the Rev. S. Haughton’s Paper on the Bee’s Cell, and on the Origin of Species”: defense of Origin of Species

More publications

More Publications

  • “The Geographical Distribution of Animals” (1876)

  • “Island Life” (1880)

  • “Tropical Nature, and Other Essays” (1878)

  • “My Life” (1905)

  • “On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species” (1855)

  • “On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago” (1863)

  • “The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Men Deduced from the Theory of “Natural Selection”” (1864)



  • Greatest explorer-naturalist of the 19th century.

  • Co-founder of natural selection

  • Founder of biogeography

  • Darwin-Wallace Medal: handed out by Linnean Society every 50 years, beginning in 1908. Recently announced that it would be awarded annually.

  • Overshadowed by Darwin because of Darwin’s social status; Wallace’s modesty and unpopular social and religious views also played a role.









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