this day in 1823, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was born in
Wales. Wallace was raised in Hertford, England, attending Hertford
Grammar School, now Richard Hale School. Wallace worked for a time as a
surveyor, which developed his love for nature and laid bare
social inequalities, introducing him to socialism. He read widely
on works of natural history, and in 1848 travelled to Brazil to collect
natural specimens for sale and study in Britain. When he published some
of his findings, Wallace was acclaimed by British scientists, and
continued to travel around the world researching the natural world.
During his time in the Malay Archipelago, he developed a theory of the
origin of new species, positing that new species arise from the
development of pre-existing species in the struggle for survival;
essentially, it was a theory of evolution. Wallace sent his writings to
fellow naturalist Charles Darwin, who was struck by the similarities
with his own theory. In 1858, Darwin and Wallace published their
findings as a paper entitled ‘On the Tendency of Species to Form
Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of
Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection’. However, it was
Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, published the next year, which
really gripped the public imagination, hence the focus on Darwin in
discussions of evolutionary theory. Wallace continued to
write zoological and naturalist works, though increasingly became
interested in social issues, advocating women’s rights and socialism.
Alfred Russel Wallace died in Dorset in 1913 aged ninety. While
Wallace’s contribution to our knowledge of man’s origins is often
eclipsed by Darwin, recent years have seen a renewed interest in the
progressive, nature-loving scientist.
The universe is so unhuman, that is, it goes its way with so little
thought of man. He is but an incident, not an end. We must adjust our
notions to the discovery that things are not shaped to him, but that he
is shaped to them. The air was not made for his lungs, but he has lungs
because there is air; the light was not created for his eye, but he has
eyes because there is light. All the forces of nature are going their
own way; man avails himself of them, or catches a ride as best he can.
If he keeps his seat, he prospers; if he misses his hold and falls, he
Fulgens Prism ~ by Christopher Marley; 20 x 24". Rather than using standard entomology mountings, Marley interprets an artistic presentation of brilliantly-colored beetle species found around the world to emphasize their natural beauty.