Found 27 Resources containing: Wallace, Alfred Russel 1823-1913
My life : a record of events and opinions / by Alfred Russel Wallace ; with facsimile letters, illustrations and portraits ; two volumes
Errata slip and leaf bound before p. 1 in v. 1.
Colophon: Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Limited, London and Beccles.
Also available online.
SCNHRB copy (39088003120821, 39088004477139) has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Alexander Wetmore. Inscribed in ink on front free endpapers: A. Wetmore.
SCNHRB copy in original dark green publisher's cloth binding, title in gilt on front cover and spine.
Darwinism; an exposition of the theory of natural selection, with some of its applications, by Alfred Russel Wallace
My life; a record of events and opinions, by Alfred Russel Wallace ... with facsimile letters, illustrations and portraits ..
Darwinism; an exposition of the theory of natural selection, with some of its applications, by Alfred Russel Wallace ... with portrait of the author, map and illustrations
Also available online.
Island life, or, The phenomena and causes of insular faunas and floras : including a revision and attempted solution of the problem of geological climates / by Alfred Russel Wallace
Frontispiece map is hand-col.
Provenance: P. Slud (book-stamp); Cyril Burrag[e?] from J.H.B. (inscription)
Also available online.
SCDIRB and SCNHRB each have one copy.
SCDIRB copy 39088002518074 has signature of Edwin Richardson Blondstone (?), 1885; pencil marginalia and underscoring.
SCDIRB copy has publisher's advertisements:  p. following text.
SCDIRB copy is Dibner gift.
SCNHRB copy 39088011699931 has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Gift of Dr. Frederick M. Bayer.
SCNHRB copy has armorial bookplate of Frederick William Stopford.
SCNHRB copy is three-quarter green goatskin and marbled paper binding, with gilt lettering and ornaments on spine.
A narrative of travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, with an account of the native tribes, and observations on the climate, geology, and natural history of the Amazon valley. By Alfred R. Wallace ..
Spine title: Wallace's Travels.
Provenance: Class prize presentation bookplate to John F. Hornby, signed by A. Newland.
Island life, or, the phenomena and causes of insular faunas and floras : including a revision and attempted solution of the problem of geological climates / by Alfred Russel Wallace
Colophon: London: R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, printers.
Also available online.
SCDIRB and SCNHRB each have one copy.
SCDIRB copy 39088001689165 has signature and bookplate of Lionel Cresswell; ink stamp of K.M.C.(?) and binder's label: Burn & co.
SCDIRB copy has publisher's advertisements:  p. at end of text.
SCDIRB copy is Dibner gift.
SCNHRB copy 39088011699972 has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Gift of Dr. Frederick M. Bayer.
SCNHRB copy bound in blue polished calf, with the royal insignia and initials "E R" in gilt on front cover, with gilt spine and turn-ins; marbled edges. Blind-stamped on front free endpaper: Refle Brothers London.
Also available online.
The geographical distribution of animals : with a study of the relations of living and extinct faunas as elucidating the past changes of the earth's surface / by Alfred Russel Wallace ; in two volumes ; with maps and illustrations
SCNHRB copy (v. 1: 39088013488432; v. 2: 39088013488473) has bookplates of J.F. Gates Clarke. Label tipped-in v. 1: Presented to J.F. Gates Clarke by Robert L. Webster, Pullman, Washington 1950.
SCNHRB copy has tipped-in v. 1 a ms. letter from the author to W. Schaus, dated Aug. 19, 1903.
SCNHRB copy has -leaf of publisher's advertisements bound-in at end of v. 2.
SCNHRB copy bound in original publisher's brown pictorial cloth, gilt stamping on front covers, title in gilt on spine, brown endpapers.
The geographical distribution of animals : with a study of the relations of living and extinct faunas as elucidating the past changes of the earth's surface / by Alfred Russel Wallace ; with maps and illustrations ; in two volumes
Errata: p. [xxiv], v. 1; p. [xi], v. 2
Also available online.
SCNHRB copy (v. 1: 39088013488713; v. 2:39088013488754) has bookplates: Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Bequest of S. Stillman Berry. Inscribed on verso of 1st front free endpapers: S. Stillman Berry, Redlands, California 12.XII.1946.
SCNHRB copy, v. 1, has ms. bibliographical notes on back free endpaper.
SCNHRB copy bound in polished calf with gilt crest on cover of Mason's Science College, title in gilt within red and green leather spine lables, gilt-decorated spine, marbled edges and endpapers.
On the phenomena of variation and geographical distribution as illustrated by the Papilionidae of the Malayan region. Read March 17, 1864
Also available online.
Also available online.
Binder's stamp: Mudie.
Provenance: P. Slud (book-stamp)
Notes of a botanist on the Amazon & Andes; being records of travel on the Amazon and its tributaries, the Trombetas, Rio Negro, Uaupés, Casiquiari, Pacimoni, Huallaga and Pastasa; as also to the cataracts of the Orinoco, along the eastern side of the Andes of Peru and Ecuador, and the shores of the Pacific, during the years 1849-1864, by Richard Spruce, PH.D. Ed. and condensed by Alfred Russel Wallace. With a biographical introduction, portrait, seventy-one illustrations and seven maps
Copy 1 (STRI) v. 1, 757; v. 2, 758.
The Annals and magazine of natural history; zoology, botany, and geology being a continuation of the Annals combined with Loudon and Charlesworth's Magazine of Natural History
Also available online.
Available also via the World Wide Web; access available via SIL PURL.
Merger of: Annals of natural history, and: Magazine of natural history.
SCNHRB has volume 16, 2nd series (no. 93, September 1855), only (barcode 39088013139464), which contains (among other articles), "On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species" by Alfred Russel Wallace, pages 184-196.
SCNHRB copy of volume 16, 2nd series has a modern brown buckram library binding with gilt-lettered spine.
On the flora of Australia : its origin, affinities, and distribution : being an introductory essay to the flora of Tasmania / by Joseph Dalton Hooker ...
Work is not an exact reprint in that Hooker has revised the text to reflect Darwin and Wallace's hypotheses and Mueller's work, cf. Preliminary remarks, p. [i] (3rd group).
On verso of t.p.: Printed by John Edward Taylor ...
Introductory essay to the flora of New Zealand: xxxix p. at end.
Last page blank.
Stafleu (2nd), 2975.
Dibner Library. Heralds of science (1980 ed.), 33
Also available online.
SCDIRB copy 39088007119183 has repaired tear in half-title leaf.
SCDIRB copy has bookplate: Burndy Library ... gift of Bern Dibner. Herald of Science no. 33.
SCDIRB copy has a later red half-Morocco leather binding with red embossed cloth-covered boards, gilt-tooled spine, and red sprinkled edges.
The chirping of cicadas is deafening, my clothes are sticky and heavy with heat and sweat, my right hand is swollen from ant bites, I am panting, almost passing out from exhaustion – and I have a big grin on my face. At last I’ve reached my goal, Rajah Brooke’s cottage, at the top of Bukit Peninjau, a hill in the middle of Borneo’s jungle.
This is where, in February 1855, naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote his hugely influential “Sarawak Law” paper. It’s as crucial to Wallace’s own thinking in disentangling the mechanisms of evolution as the Galàpagos Islands famously were to his contemporary, Charles Darwin.
Three years later, in 1858, two papers that would change our understanding of our place in the natural world were read before the Linnean Society of London. Their authors: Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. In another year, Charles Darwin would publish “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection,” squarely positioning him as the father of evolution. Whether Darwin or Wallace should justly be credited for the discovery of the mechanisms of evolution has stirred controversy pretty much ever since.
Comparatively little has been written about Wallace’s seminal work, published four years earlier. In what’s commonly known as his “Sarawak Law” paper, Wallace pondered the unique distribution of related species, which he could only explain by means of gradual changes. This insight would ultimately mature into a fully formed theory of evolution by natural selection – the same theory Charles Darwin arrived at independently years before, but had not yet published.
I am an evolutionary biologist who has always been fascinated by the mechanisms of evolution as well as the history of my own field, and it’s like visiting hallowed ground for me to trace Wallace’s footsteps through the jungle where he puzzled through the mechanics of how evolution works.An 1874 map of the Malay Archipelago, tracing Wallace’s travels. Trustees of the Natural History Museum, 2018, (CC BY-ND)
Forgotten founder of evolutionary theory
Alfred Russel Wallace, originally a land surveyor from a modest background, was a naturalist at heart and an adventurer. He left England to collect biological specimens in South America to finance his quest: to understand the great laws that shape life. But his trip back home was marred by terrible weather resulting in his ship sinking, all specimens being lost and a near-death experience for Wallace himself.
In order to make back the money he’d lost in the shipwreck, he headed to the Malay Archipelago, a region to which few Europeans had ever ventured. Wallace spent time in Singapore, Indonesia, Borneo and the Moluccas.
There he wrote a succinct, yet brilliant, paper, which he sent to Charles Darwin. In it, he described how organisms produce more offspring than necessary, and natural selection only favors the most fit. The ideas he’d arrived at on his own were revolutionary – and closely mirrored what Darwin had been mulling over himself.
Receiving Wallace’s paper – and realizing that he might be scientifically “scooped” by this unknown naturalist – prompted Darwin to rush his own writings, resulting in the presentation to the Linnean Society in 1858. Wallace’s paper, now known as the “Ternate paper,” was an elaboration of his thinking, based on an earlier, first foray into the realm of evolutionary biology.Portrait of Alfred Russel Wallace taken in Singapore in 1862. (James Marchant)
A few years earlier, when in Singapore, Wallace had met James Brooke, a British adventurer, who through incredible circumstances became the rajah of Sarawak, a large state on the island of Borneo. James Brooke would create a dynasty of Sarawak rulers, known as the white rajahs.
Upon their encounter, Brooke and Wallace became friends. Wallace fell in love with Sarawak and realized that it was a perfect collecting ground, mostly for insects, but also for the much sought after orangutans. He stayed in the area a total of 14 months, his longest stay anywhere in the archipelago. Toward the end of his sojourn, Wallace was invited by Brooke to visit his cottage, a place up on the Bukit Peninjau that was pleasantly cool, surrounded by a lush and promising forest.
A waterfall in Sarawak. Hugh Low, 'Sarawak; its inhabitants and productions; being notes during a residence in that country with the Rajah Brooke.' (Public Domain)
“This is a very steep pyramidal mountain of crystalline basaltic rock, about a thousand feet high, and covered with luxuriant forest. There are three Dyak villages upon it, and on a little platform near the summit is the rude wooden lodge where the English Rajah was accustomed to go for relaxation and cool fresh air…. The road up the mountain is a succession of ladders on the face of precipices, bamboo bridges over gullies and chasms, and slippery paths over rocks and tree-trunks and huge boulders as big as houses.”
The jungle surrounding the cottage was full of collecting possibilities – it was particularly good for moths. Wallace would sit in the cottage’s main room with the lights on at night, working, sometimes furiously fast, at pinning hundreds of specimens. In just three evening sessions, Wallace would write his “Sarawak Law” paper in this remote setting.
Whether consciously or not, Wallace was laying the foundation for understanding the processes of evolution. Working things through in this out-of-the-way cottage, he started to synthesize a new evolutionary theory that he’d fully develop in his Ternate paper.The birdwing butterfly Trogonoptera brookiana was named by Wallace for Sir James Brooke, the rajah of Sarawak. (Lyn, CC BY-ND)
Following in Wallace’s Sarawak footsteps
I’ve been teaching evolution to college students for over two decades and have always been fascinated by the story of the “Sarawak Law” paper. On a recent trip to Borneo, I decided to try to retrace Wallace’s steps up to the cottage to see for myself where this pioneering paper was written.
Tracking down information about the exact location of Bukit Peninjau turned out to be a challenge in itself, but after a few mistakes and contradictory directions obtained from local villagers, my 16-year-old son Alessio and I found the trailhead.
The moment we started, it was obvious we had ventured off the beaten path. The trail is narrow, steep, slippery and at times barely recognizable as a path. The very steep incline, combined with the heat and humidity, make it difficult to negotiate.The author with an Amorphophallus flower. (Alessio Bernardi, CC BY-ND)
While much has disappeared since Wallace’s time, a huge diversity of lifeforms is still visible. In the thick of the jungle along the lower part of the trail, we spotted several stands of the tallest flower in the world, the aptly named Amorphophallus. Hundreds of butterflies were everywhere, along with other peculiar arthropods including giant ants and giant pill millipedes.
In some stretches, the trail is so steep that we had to rely on the knotted ropes that have been installed to help with the climb. Apparently red ants love those ropes as well – and our grasping hands just as much.The author on the former site of the Brooke cottage. Locals sprayed the area with weed-killer to reclaim the clearing from the jungle. (Alessio Bernardi, CC BY-ND)
Eventually, after about an hour and a half of climbing and struggling, we reached a somewhat flat portion of the trail, not more than 30 feet long. On the right, a small path led up to a clearing, the former site of the cottage. It’s hard not to imagine Alfred Russel Wallace, thousands of miles from home, in complete scientific isolation, pondering the meaning of biological diversity. I was at a loss for words, though my teenage son was puzzled by the emotional meaning of the moment for me.
I walked around the cleared space where the cottage used to be, imagining the rooms, the jars, the nets, the moths and the notebooks. It’s an incredible feeling to share that space.
We walked down a slope to the huge overhanging rock where Brooke and Wallace found “refreshing baths and delicious drinking water.” The pools are gone now, filled in with natural debris, but the cave is still a welcome shelter from the sun.The author in the spot where Wallace described ‘a cool spring under an overhanging rock just below the cottage.’ (Alessio Bernardi, CC BY-ND)
We decided to climb to the top of the hill. Thirty minutes and buckets of sweat later, we arrived at a viewpoint where we could take in a view of the entire valley, unobstructed by the jungle. We saw oil palm farms, houses and roads. But my focus was on the river in the distance, used by Wallace to reach this place. I imagined what the primary forest, full of orangutans, birdwing butterflies and hornbills, must have looked like 160 years ago.
In the midst of this gorgeous but very harsh environment, Wallace was able to keep a clear head, think deeply about what it all meant, put it down on paper and send it to the most prominent biologist of the time, Charles Darwin.
Like many other evolution aficionados, I’ve visited the Galàpagos Islands and retraced Darwin’s footsteps. But it’s in this remote jungle, far from anyone and anything – perhaps because of the physical difficulties of reaching Rajah Brooke’s cottage combined with the raw beauty of the surroundings – that I felt a deeper connection with that long-ago time, when evolution was discovered.
The dispersal of shells, an inquiry into the means of dispersal possessed by fresh-water and land Mollusca, by Harry Wallis Kew ... With a preface by Alfred Russel Wallace ... With illustrations
When Charles Darwin read Alfred Russel Wallace’s manuscript about a new theory of life on Earth, he was spurred into action. The ideas in Wallace’s 20 pages were too close to Darwin’s own work, which he had held back from publishing for decades. "All my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed," he wrote to a friend. Darwin then rushed into print summary of his theory of evolution, which we now celebrate as the beginning of a scientific revolution.
The threat Wallace’s manuscript represented would induce panic in any person, but Darwin was perhaps more vulnerable to that feeling. Maria Popova, for Brain Pickings, writes that the father of evolution may have dealt with chronic anxiety. She pulls excerpts from Scott Stossel’s book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind, an account of the author’s and society’s struggle with anxiety. Popova writes:
Stossel points to a “Diary of Health” that the scientist kept for six years between the ages of 40 and 46 at the urging of his physician. He filled dozens of pages with complaints like “chronic fatigue, severe stomach pain and flatulence, frequent vomiting, dizziness (‘swimming head,’ as Darwin described it), trembling, insomnia, rashes, eczema, boils, heart palpitations and pain, and melancholy.”
In her post, Popova excerpts from Darwin’s letters to his colleagues and details both his search for effective treatments and history’s attempts to diagnose the man. The possibility that he suffered from anxiety, though, does make a lot of sense given some of his habits — keeping his house running like clockwork and sticking to a strict routine.
Back in December, I wondered if you could plan an itinerary for the entire year in which everything you did was Darwin-related. I quickly discovered that planning itineraries is hard work (my friends over at Smithsonian Journeys do this every day—they are amazing) and stopped in early May, leaving us in London. But I've kept at it and managed to fill the rest of the year. So where to next?
May 12: Debate in Westminster Abbey, London, chaired by the BBC's John Humphrys and sponsored by Theos and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. The debate will explore the compatibility of belief in God and Darwinian evolution.
May 13: View the Alfred Russel Wallace Collection at the Natural History Museum, London.
May 14 – 15: Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
May 16: Darwin’s London, Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, London.
May 17 – 19: Sightsee through southern England on the way to Lyme Regis.
May 22 – 24: Lyme Regis Fossil Festival 2009.
May 25 – 26: Travel to London. Fly to New York. Take train to Cold Spring Harbor.
May 27 – June 1: Evolution: The Molecular Landscape, symposium at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
June 2 – 30: Travel home. Check to see if house still exists. Call friends who haven’t heard from you in months. Feed cat. Pack for the next bit of travel. Reread On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.
July 1: Fly back to England.
July 2: Exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, “‘Endless Forms’: Charles Darwin, natural science and the visual arts.”
July 3: Visit the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.
July 4: Wonder why no one around you is celebrating Independence Day.
July 5 – 10: Darwin Anniversary Festival, Cambridge University, England. “A Festival of science, society, literature, history, philosophy, theology, art and music arising from the writings, life and times of Charles Darwin presented through talks, discussions, performances, workshops, exhibitions and tours.”
July 11: Visit the University of Cambridge Zoology Museum. See “Darwin: Beetles, Finches, Barnacles.”
July 12: Sunday. Rest.
July 14: Take the train to Oxford.
July 15 – 18: Religious Responses to Darwinism, St Anne’s College, Oxford.
July 19: Fly to the Galapagos Islands.
July 20 – 24: Darwin celebration in the Galapagos, hosted by the Charles Darwin Foundation.
July 25 – 31: You’re in the Galapagos! See everything!
August 1 – 3: Fly home. Call mom and explain why you aren’t going to visit her this year. Pack.
August 4 – 10: Hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada region, California. See Mount Darwin, Darwin Glacier and Darwin Canyon in the Kings Canyon National Park and Inyo National Forest.
August 11: Fly to Chicago. Wonder why you planned to go to Chicago when its 90+ degrees out. Remember that at least you didn’t plan to go when it was -20 degrees.
August 13: Wander among the animals at the Brookfield Zoo.
August 14: Visit your brother; talk about his new research project.
August 15: Fly to Washington, D.C.
August 17: Check out the National Arboretum. Take train to New York.
August 18: Spend the day at the American Museum of Natural History. Wander out into Central Park.
August 19: Check out the New York Hall of Science.
August 20: Take train to Boston. Take bus to Woods Hole.
August 21 – 22: Hang out with scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Enjoy the beach.
August 23: Back to the Galapagos!
August 24 – 27: Second World Summit on Evolution.
August 28 – September 15: Follow the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace and visit Southeast Asia.
September 16 – 20: Human Evolution – 150 Years After Darwin, conference in Gibraltar.
September 19 – 22: Darwin’s Mistake and what we are doing to correct it, Azores.
September 23: Fly to Paris.
September 24: Visit the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle. See the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution.
September 25: Take train to Geneva, Switzerland.
September 26: Visit the natural history museum in Geneva.
September 27: Take advantage of being in Switzerland and eat lots of Swiss chocolate.
September 28: Fly to Edinburgh, Scotland.
October 1: Take train to Glasgow. Visit the Glasgow Science Centre.
October 2: Take train to Manchester.
October 3: Darwin at the Manchester Museum exhibit opening.
October 4: Visit the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.
October 5: Fly to Falkland Islands.
October 6 – 7: Visit Darwin, Falkland Islands.
October 8 – 12: Fly home. Do laundry. Check on kids.
October 13 – November 23: Smithsonian Journeys tour – South America’s Ancient Civilizations. Among the destinations on this 40-day cruise is the Beagle Channel, named for Darwin’s ship the HMS Beagle, which explored these waters in 1832.
November 24 – December 31: Follow the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace and visit the Amazon.
January 1, 2010: Stop thinking about Darwin. Obsess about something else. Any suggestions?
(Many thanks to Darwin Online for compiling the list that contained many of these events.)
Smithsonian magazine’s Lyn Garrity spoke with Wallace expert Andrew Berry about the naturalist. Berry teaches evolutionary biology at Harvard and is the author of the book, Infinite Tropics, an annotated anthology of Wallace’s writings.
How did Alfred Russel Wallace come to be a naturalist?
He grew up poor, was taken out of school very early because his family couldn’t afford it. He apprenticed at a young age to his brother, a railway surveyor. This is in the 1830s and 1840s when railways were springing up across the United Kingdom, and to be a surveyor was a good way to make a living. During this time, Wallace became interested in natural history in a completely self-taught way. When the surveying business died briefly, he took a job as a teacher in the town of Leicester and this was his big break. He met a man called Henry Walter Bates who was also very young at the time, around 19, and already a published beetle expert. Bates transmitted the beetle-collecting virus [enthusiasm], if you like, to Wallace.
These young kids read this slightly dubious but bestselling popular potboiler with evolutionary ideas called the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation that came out in 1844. (The book was one of the reasons Darwin delayed publishing for so long because it was pilloried by the scientific establishment.) Then in what I find mind blowing, these two, who’ve never been out of England or anywhere, conceived this idea of going somewhere beyond Britain where they would find interesting and exotic species. They organized a trip to Brazil, which in 1848 was extraordinarily enterprising. They were basically making ends meet by selling their specimens as professional collectors, which is about as low as you could get on the naturalist’s pecking order. This is very different from Darwin’s gig, where he sails around the world as the captain’s paying guest on a Royal Navy ship.
Wallace and Bates split up fairly early on when they were in the Amazon. Bates went up the Amazon proper and Wallace specialized on the Rio Negro, spending an extraordinary four years there: He nearly died of yellow fever; his brother came out to help and did die of yellow fever; uncontacted tribes; the works. And all this was really with a view to becoming a member of the scientific establishment. He was going to come back, four years later, with this great collection, all these new species, all these observations, and he was going to be a scientist. But his boat, with all his specimens, including 20-odd living specimens, caught fire in the middle of the Atlantic, and literally everything was lost. He took only one small case of drawings with him. He spends ten days in an open boat, and then the boat that rescued him nearly went down as well!
What a string of hard luck! It’s amazing he didn’t give up.
Having survived that, he spends 18 months in the UK, puts out a book on his Amazon travels, which was one of the worst-selling books in history. Darwin himself was rather hard on it, saying there was a certain want of facts. Eighteen months later, Wallace was on his way to Southeast Asia to do it all over again. This time it was eight years largely in modern-day Indonesia. And again an extraordinary scientific journey: He was completely reliant on local people for their help, traveling alone, learning local languages. It’s the same gig as his Amazon trip, selling his specimens to make ends meet.
Then comes the second great out-of-the-blue event—Wallace and Bates going to the Amazon is the first —when in 1855 he publishes his first theoretical paper. Previously, he’s published a number of natural history notes—classic collector sort of things, this is where you find these monkeys, these birds. Then, when he’s in Sarawak, in northern Borneo, he produces this remarkable work of synthesis. It’s a full-born evolutionary idea in so far as the standard theory of evolution has two strands. One is descent with modification, that we’re all related to everyone else. Two is the mechanism that entrains that descent with modification, namely natural selection. The 1855 paper, “On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species,” is essentially a statement of the first half of the theory of evolution. The observation was that you found closely related, or closely allied species (as he would have called them) in the same geographic area. You find kangaroo species in Australia; you don’t find them elsewhere. That implies a genealogical process of some kind—that kangaroo species were giving rise to new kangaroo species.
Wallace expects his paper to create a big splash, but it doesn’t. Demoralized, he writes to Darwin. Darwin was encouraging in a slightly cagey kind of way, but he does go out of the way to do to reassure Wallace that he, too, is interested in the big picture, what you might call theory as opposed to details of taxonomy. And it was of course because of this that Wallace knew Darwin had a serious interest in these questions. It is interesting to read the correspondence because you see that Darwin is being gentlemanly but also slightly territorial.
Geologist Charles Lyell, Darwin’s mentor and friend, was much more struck by Wallace’s paper than Darwin was. He warned Darwin that he had been sitting on his ideas for getting on to 20 years now and here’s this Mr. Nobody coming up on the outside pretty fast. Darwin didn’t take it that seriously, but Lyell urged Darwin to get on with it or he would find himself scooped.
So how does Wallace stumble upon the idea of natural selection?
Ah, the moment of mechanism! The famous story of Wallace happens in February 1858 while he was on the island Halmahera (then Gilolo) in the Moluccas. He was suffering from malaria. While in a feverish state, he was thinking about Malthus, who was also a big player in Darwin’s thinking, and specifically about humans. Wallace was very interested in how there’s a replacement of people through Southeast Asia from an Asiatic type to a Melanesian type, so he was thinking essentially about racial conflict. And Malthus was all about the viability of human populations in the face of geometric growth with limited resources at their disposal.
In this malarial fit, he put two and two together, and natural selection was born. And as soon as he could he penned the manuscript. And the great freakish thing about it was that he sent it to Darwin. Every other paper he had sent directly to an editor or journal. And if he had done that, Darwin would have woken up, three months later, scooped, so this is the luckiest thing that ever happened to Charles Darwin. And I’m sure the reason Wallace did this stemmed from the disappointment of the reception of his previous big idea, so he figured he have it placed. He’d send it to Darwin with a view to him relaying it to Lyell. Essentially he’s pulling all his connections to big time science. He sends if off in February 1858.
Wallace has become this historical footnote. Do you think this is the role he deserves?
He definitely deserves more prominence than he receives. I think it’s kind of interesting that the world has become so Darwin-centric. And I do think there are several reasons for that. We can legitimately regard Darwin as first. Unfortunately, in science, being second doesn’t get you anywhere. Two, Wallace and Darwin responded to the publication of the Origin in two very different ways. Darwin saw it as the foundation of all his future work. He lived for another 23 years and published a good number of books in that time, all of them building upon the Origin. The Origin was the foundation, and he was buttressing it, bringing facts in, extending the theory to include sexual selection.
What did Wallace do?
When Wallace came back from Indonesia, he was famous and actually rich from his collecting trip. He didn’t have any disasters like the one with the Amazon trip. His nearest disaster was with a pair of living birds of paradise, which were his real ticket to success in London. He had this problem when he got to the Mediterranean—he was on a P & O steamer, which was too well maintained—because he had been feeding the birds of paradise live insects from the kitchens, cockroaches, I think, and there was this awful moment, steaming across the Mediterranean, when he had nothing to feed his birds. So what he manages happily to do when the ship stops in Malta is find a thoroughly cockroach-infested bakery, where he can stock up on insects.
So he’s back in London. He’s now achieved what he wanted to achieve. He’s part of the scientific elite. He’s up there. He’s Darwin’s right-hand man so to speak, and he’s wealthy. And then very rapidly he wasn’t. He was a very catastrophic investor. He trusted people he shouldn’t have.
So we have this contrast of Darwin slowly and steadily building on his argument and Wallace…
Goes bananas. He’s still doing great science, but he publishes—his bibliography runs to some 800 articles now—on everything. He becomes heavily politicized. He becomes a socialist. He was the president of Land Nationalization Society, which believed that private land ownership was the great root of all modern evil and that the state should own all land and rent it at equitable rates across the board. He became a spiritualist. Wallace remained convinced to his dying day that spirits, including those of dead humans, influence one’s fate to some extent and that you can communicate with them.
Even though Wallace believed in spiritualism, could he be considered in any way a creationist or an early intelligent designer?
Again that becomes a matter of definition. He was an absolute hardcore natural selectionist. In fact, as he writes in his autobiography, in many ways he was more Darwinian than Darwin in this regard. The big thing that he did drop the ball on, and he first announced this about ten years after the publication of the Origin, was that he decided that natural selection could not account for the evolution of humans. It deeply disturbed Darwin to lose his co-discoverer on this critical point on the theory of evolution. He wrote Wallace, “I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.” In this regard you could legitimately call Wallace a creationist. He was a non-materialist in terms of one aspect of the evolutionary process.
How did Darwin and Wallace differ on their understanding of the evolution of humans?
Wallace deemed there to be some kind of divine intervention. He was not a theist in the sense of believing in God or even a polytheist. His vision of the divine was of this nebulous, multifarious spirit world. Wallace believed that humans are endowed with spirit and that is what lingers on and you can communicate with post-mortem.
And Darwin was basically by the book: natural selection has created humans. For him, mankind evolved in the same way as mice and fruitflies did. He had no need of divine intervention in the evolution of humans.
Did Wallace’s work advance the idea of speciation more than Darwin’s?
Yes, I think so. You can’t really discuss the mechanism of speciation whereby one species splits into two until you have a very concrete notion of what species are. So you need a good definition. Darwin’s definition of species is essentially that there are extreme varieties. Think of varieties of a rose, you can have a pink rose and a yellow rose and if you keep going along that line of variability eventually you’ll have a different species. And I should add that it was sort of rhetorically necessary for Darwin to do that given his argument, because people were comfortable with the notion of two different varieties of rose from their Victorian gardens. So all he’s saying is, look, there’s nothing mysterious about this; there are slightly more different varieties and we call them species, which is true, but you need something more illuminating, you need some notion of where that cutoff occurs. We now recognize typically that it’s where the members of one population cease to be capable of interbreeding with members of the other population.
When does this definition of species originate?
There’s a big literature on this, but the most exquisite statement of this fact is made by Wallace in his butterfly paper from 1864-65, where he writes that species are these groups of individuals capable of interbreeding with others within the group but not with individuals from outside the group—they’re reproductively isolated from each other. Very few people know that Wallace came up with this definition of species. This idea—it’s called the biological species concept—is certainly one of the most important ideas in evolutionary biology in that speciation is really the engine of biodiversity. You’ve really got to come to terms with speciation if you want to understand the generation of biological diversity.
What was Wallace’s reaction to his secondary role in relation to Darwin?
Wallace hears from London that the co-publication has occurred and he’s thrilled. Remember he’s already 15 years into his attempt to elevate himself from being this obscure nobody. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge; he’s finally made it. And he writes this lovely letter to his mother in October that year  in which he exalts in the fact that when he comes back he’ll have the acquaintance of learned men of science. Clearly, the notion doesn’t occur to him that in some sense Mr. Darwin has ripped him off. Not in all of his personal writings is there a single grumble.
The next phase of things is publication of The Origin of Species, which barely makes mention of Wallace. And again, Wallace is just blown away. He writes to his friends that there is no way that he could have done that. “Mr. Darwin has given the world new science…. The force of admiration can no further go.” And through the rest of his life he always deferred to Darwin. His major book on evolutionary biology, he titled Darwinism. Darwin was the senior guy. Wallace felt that he got to where he got on Darwin’s coattails.
Wallace seems to be having a slight resurgence with a host of recent books out on him…
I think there are two things going on. One is saturation: the Darwin seams have been worked and worked. The other thing relates to the history of science, in which it’s sort of uncool to think in terms of individual heroic labor and striving. Ideas are an emergent property of the socio-political environment in which the individuals find themselves, which is manifestly true in this case. This is the most important idea in history, bar none—sought after since the Greeks. Suddenly, you have two people stumbling upon it independently, so in other words it’s not independent. There is something particular about this time and place: Britain at the height of Empire; opportunity for global travel and sudden encounter with the diversity of forms—the forms are pouring into the museums; colonial and industrial Britain, which is essentially a social Darwinian concept; Malthus is looming large. There are all sorts of good reasons.
So we’ve had Darwin, Darwin, Darwin. Then you start thinking that given the fact that we have two people coming up with natural selection at the same time and we don’t think it’s just down to genius individuals anymore, where else should we be looking? And Wallace is obviously the next place.
How did zebras get their stripes? There’s no way to look back into evolutionary history and pinpoint the reason for the wild equids' distinctive decorations. Scientists have long suspected that the stripes help zebras hide from large carnivores. But that might not be true, after all.
In a paper recently published in the journal PLOS One, a group of scientists contend that zebra stripes aren’t really for camouflage. The team used digital images of zebras in Tanzania to figure out whether the stripes were effective at hiding the animals from other creatures like lions, hyenas and other zebras. Based on visual capabilities of those animals, they manipulated the images with filters that simulated how the zebras would look and also measured the width and light contrast of the stripes.
The team discovered that zebra stripes are actually pretty hard for their predators to distinguish. Though humans are able to spot zebras at distances as far as 50 meters by day and 30 meters in twilight, predators and other animals weren’t able to see them that far away. On moonless nights, zebras were even harder to see. They found that in well-lit conditions, humans can spot zebra stripes at distances 2.6 times greater than zebras, 4.5 times greater than lions and 7.5 times longer than hyenas.
All non-human species had to get much closer to zebras to see their stripes—distances at which they’d be able to see and smell the zebras up close. The finding suggests that at least at far distances, the stripes don’t act as camouflage. The team also found that predators could see the zebras’ outlines just as well as other prey at close distance. Zebras were bad at seeing one another at wide distances, too, suggesting that there’s no real social advantage to stripes.
The debate about why zebras have stripes has raged ever since Darwin published his first work on evolution over a century ago. Though Darwin maintained that the animals’ stripes were useless, his collaborator Alfred Russel Wallace maintained that they must have some use for camouflage. Since then, scientists have speculated that stripes might mimic tree trunks and confuse predators in wooded areas or let them blend in with their background.
But Amanda Melin, the study’s lead author, now disagrees. In a release about the study, she says that “until now, the question has always been framed through human eyes.”
Zebra stripes are all the rage these days—another study published last week posits that another longstanding theory, that the stripes help the animals deter biting flies, is bogus. “We suggest that the selective agents driving zebra striping are probably multifarious and complex,” the team writes in the paper, which was published in Royal Society Open Science.
If zebra stripes aren’t related to predators, social status or basic survival, why are they there? For now, the question seems destined to remain one of wildlife’s most beautiful mysteries.
One day, Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree, minding his own business, when an apple fell on his head. Eureka! Just like that, he understood gravity.
Okay, that’s not quite how it happened. But in the annals of scientific history, it's these kinds apple-on-the-head moments that worm their way into our collective memory: neat, satisfying discoveries in which paradigms are shifted and new paths paved. In reality, science is an altogether more complex, messy, and just generally less sexy beast. It can take decades of lonesome, repetitive work—pipetting liquids, plating bacteria, calculating trajectories, sketching insects—to get even a taste of discovery.
Therein lies the challenge of capturing the authentic process of science on the big screen. Yet that was the aim of a new docudrama movie Amazon Adventure. This film, which premiered April 18th at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., delves into the work of famed 18th-century naturalist and entomologist Henry Walter Bates to tell the tale behind the key discovery of animal mimicry. Along with Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, Bates helped developed ideas that contributed to the emerging theory of evolution.
Born as the son of a Leicester hosiery maker, Bates was destined for life in the industry. But the natural world never stopped calling him. In 1848, with the support of a London agent who bought and sold exotic specimen, Bates headed to the Amazon to study how—and if—species change over time.
Despite bouts of malaria and yellow fever, he toiled in the rainforest for 11 years, documenting over 14,500 species, 8,000 of them new to science. Eventually, he did have his own apple-on-head discovery. It came in the form of butterfly wings. He eventually figured out that species of butterfly that were perfectly harmless would—over generations—develop the same coloring as its noxious longwing (Heliconius) cousins, a process now known as batesian mimicry. By playing the copycat, these mimics successfully kept wary predators off their backs.
“It may be said, therefore, that on these expanded membranes Nature writes, as on a tablet, the story of the modifications of species,” Bates wrote in a book about his adventures, Naturalist on the River Amazon.
It’s a nice story. But the reality is that it took years for Bates to arrive at this "aha" moment, and the producers of Amazon Adventure wanted to encompass that journey in its entirety. We talked to Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary biologist and executive producer of the film, about how he shaped a compelling visual narrative for viewers while sticking close to the scientific facts. Let’s just say it took some real, well, adaptation.
How do you approach telling stories of science, which may not be the most exciting on the surface?
We're going for insight into the motivations of scientists—not just the content of their discoveries. Story is the whole key.
This film is weaving three threads: there's a science discovery story, there's a drama and there's the natural history. I’ve written several books, so I’m used to seeking out stories as a writer. But then you’ve got to put it on a screen. You've got 45 minutes in IMAX. (That's the standard format so they can turn over the theatres on the hour.) So you're not going to have the luxury of unpacking the story at a leisurely pace.
But in the hands of the right people I think you can create a powerful experience that's more accessible to a wider audience than those who would call themselves science fans. These films help a broader audience connect with scientists and realize what would drive them to build a little machine and hurl it out to the edge of our solar system; what would drive people to spend their life in a forest or on a Savannah or in a pacific tidepool to try to understand the rules of life.
Science alone would not make a great movie. You have to get inside the skin of these people to know what makes them tick. What are they hoping for? Why are they striving? What are they up against?
Were you concerned about misrepresenting the science or the history because this was such a condensed version of the tale?
This film we all knew—both creative and science sides—had to pass a high bar of expert appraisal. And that's not easy to do while telling a good story that's also visually immersive.
The process here is really important. The combination of science and history advisors interacting with a very committed producing team helps us remain faithful to the record. Sometimes you're actually solving problems and puzzles: What did Bates know before he came home? Why would he be so motivated to find something?
There was also a tremendous effort for authenticity both historical and natural. So for example in London when you use him reconstructing the chain of butterflies and you see those boxes of butterflies—those are actually Bates’ butterflies lent to us from the Natural History Museum in London. [Part of the movie was also filmed outside Darwin’s family home in Kent.]
Working with such a large team of scientists, did you often disagree about what made it in the film and what got cut?
We worked very hard to portray Bates’ role, Bates’ contribution, Bates’ relationships with Wallace and Darwin in as faithful a light that we could. And that meant, of course, sometimes it got tense. But that's what good rigor requires.
What got tense was the question of: How much understanding could we attribute to Bates before he left the Amazon? He didn’t write scientific papers about mimicry until he got home. So how much did [these ideas of how species change] appear to Bates in the Darwinian writing?
There’s sort of a little mutualism there between Darwin and Bates, Darwin didn't have the kind of evidence Bates had.
So Darwin had the explanation that Bates needed, and Bates had the evidence to support Darwin’s ideas. How did you resolve what Bates knew?
We went through a lot of iterations. But we got around to what I think is the best supportable view: He was striving to understand it, but he hadn't reached what we would call natural selection [until after reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species].
Bates comes back from the jungle after 11 years. He's observed these really close resemblances and thought about how they come about. He probably didn’t arrive at an explanation while in the Amazon, but he recognized it on reading Darwin. At the same time he said to Darwin something like, "I have a glimpse into the laboratory where nature manufactures her species." And Darwin's like, "tell me more."
You wrote about Bates prior taking on this film. Was there anything you learned about him in the movie research that surprised you?
This film really forced me to think about what Bates was doing for 11 years. I mean wow; eleven years in the middle of the 19th century: Malaria, yellow fever, the rainy season, scarcity of food. Oh my god, how did he stay at it?
Every time you visit these stories you see into the souls of these characters. And as I know these stories better, my admiration for these people just keeps going up. Wallace stayed four years in the Amazon and then eight years in the Malay Archipelago, and Bates was 11 years in the Amazon, and Darwin five years on the Beagle. Can you imagine when these three men were together? Was there anyone on the planet that had their feeling for nature and had paid dues that great?
That's why they had such respect and affection for each other—not rivalry, not bitterness, not pettiness—just absolute eternal respect.
The movie Amazon Adventure will premiere in 3D IMAX April 18th at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and will be playing at theaters across North America.
Eating locally grown produce may be the easiest way to help spare the planet the stresses of cross-global commerce, and many of us have been all but trained out of buying imported fruits (though we tend to ignore the exotic realities of bananas, coffee and cheap Australian wines). But what if we make a voyage across the world to eat their local specialties? Does that count as eating locally? Probably not—but there are some fruits so unique, so exotic and so tied up with the place and the people from which they emerged that one simply must travel to truly taste them. And here are just a few of the best, most historical, most charismatic of the world’s fruits. Go get them at the source.
Breadfruit, Polynesia. The food value of this whopper tree fruit and starchy staple of the tropics has been heralded for centuries. The fruit grows on beautiful, large-leaved trees and cooks up like something between potato and bread. The British first gave close consideration to the species in the 1760s as Captain James Cook sailed the Pacific. An onboard botanist named Joseph Banks observed the breadfruit and was impressed by its yields and quality. In 1787, Banks returned to the Polynesian breadfruit country, this time on the ill-fated HMS Bounty captained by William Bligh. The boat’s mission, before it was taken over by miscreants, was to collect breadfruit trees in Tahiti and transport them to the Caribbean to provide a new food source for slaves in the sugarcane fields. Today, breadfruit, like so many tropical fruits, has been introduced to nearly every suitable region around the equatorial waistline of the globe, and in many places the trees grow semi-wild. Hawaii is just one hotspot. In Holualoa, the Breadfruit Institute is home to the largest varietal collection of breadfruits in the world—a tidy orchard of 120 varieties. The institute also co-hosts the annual Breadfruit Festival, which took place in March, but in many places, breadfruit trees fruit year-round.
Pitahaya cactus fruit, Baja California. Not to be confused with the common prickly pear or with the pitaya dragon fruit, the pitahaya fruit is brilliant red, is prickled with needle-like spines that fall off as the fruit ripens and resembles a crimson kiwi when cut in two. The fruit occurs in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, with the Baja California peninsula a center of abundance. The fruit grows from the long arms of the so-called “galloping cactus,” which anyone who visits Baja will see. The octopus-looking plants are a dull green and mostly unremarkable—until September. That’s when the bright red bulbs the size of apples swell into ripeness, and until December the feast is on. The fruits occur by the millions, and tequila-sipping cowboys, fishermen with the day off, families from the city and even a few tourists wearing backpacks all take to the desert to pursue the pitahaya, filling buckets and bringing them home like many northerners do with wild blackberries. October is a sure hit for the pitahaya on the southern half of the Baja peninsula. The best bet: Bring camping gear and go out a-walkin’. Beware of the sun, and watch out for rattlesnakes. The fruits should be attacked with a knife, sliced in two, and eaten with a spoon like a kiwi. A piece of pitahaya trivia: Local indigenous people historically feasted on pitahayas in the fall, and toward the end of the season they sifted the many small seeds from their communal latrines to grind into flour.
Salmonberry, Southeast Alaska. Going to the Pacific Northwest this July? Then watch the berry bushes closely. You’ll see raspberries and blueberries and blackberries—and a lesser known one called the salmonberry. As tender and soft as a raspberry, the salmonberry is about the size of a farm-grown strawberry. That is, the things are huge. I discovered the salmonberry in 1999 on Prince of Wales Island, where my brother and I spent five weeks backpacking, hitchhiking and fishing for salmon. Salmonberry thickets lined most streams and roads, and many afternoons we set aside our fly rods to pick berries. The abundance was mind-boggling, and we would fill our Nalgene bottles in just minutes, each down a full quart of pulverized salmonberries, and then return to the brambles to fill our bottles for dinner. One afternoon, we rappelled down a cliff to access a particularly thick patch. We often dodged black bears working the same patches. We ate salmonberries until we couldn’t move, and when we could stand again, we went back for more. We grilled up sockeye salmon every day for lunch and dinner, and we often drizzled hot salmonberry reduction over the fillets. We feasted on these exciting new berries until the season petered out in August. Then we went home, and we have never seen a salmonberry since—but Michael and I still talk about the summer of ’99, the summer of the salmonberry.
Porcini mushroom, Italy. As surely as the apple is the fruit of the tree, the mushroom is the fruit of the fungus—and perhaps no edible mushroom is so unmistakable or such a sure find in the times and places that it grows as Boletus edulis. Called cep in French, king bolete in English and manatarka in Bulgarian, this mushroom is the famous porcini in Italy. Here, this giant, brown-capped mushroom fruits in huge abundance in the late summer and fall. The species tends to grow among chestnut trees throughout southern Europe, and following the first of the autumn rains, the forest floor erupts. Local hunters swarm the woods. Until the winter frost ends the season, households grow fragrant with the nutty, smoky scent of drying and frying porcini, much of the harvest destined for pasta sauces. Can’t get to Italy? That’s fine, because Boletus edulis spores have drifted around the Northern Hemisphere, and in China, California, New York, Greece and Russia, the porcini mushroom grows. Note: The species occurs among different trees in different places—Douglas fir forests in the Pacific Northwest, Monterey pines in Central California and mixed deciduous forests on the Eastern Seaboard. But be smart, and only hunt mushrooms with an experienced forager, and if in doubt, throw it out—not into your risotto.
Durian, Thailand. Just as a wine writer is sure to speak again and again of the tireless Pinot Noir, a writer with an interest in fruits must pay regular tribute to the durian. This spiky and musky-odored beast is called the “king of fruits” in Southeast Asia and can be found worldwide in most large cities with thriving Asian communities—but these imported durians, usually from Thailand, are generally ones that have been frozen. They’re delicious, but fresh off the tree, the durian, which includes multiple species of the genus Durio, is said to be an experience just short of heavenly—the onion-vanilla flavor of its custard-like flesh amplified in every tantalizing way. In the jungles of Southeast Asia, Borneo and Indonesia, locals keep their ears tuned to the trees during the late-spring peak of durian season. Upon hearing a heavy thwunk, they go prowling—seeking the freshly fallen fruit, which is said to lose much of its aroma and flavor in mere hours after harvest. Journalist David Quammen described the hunt for durians on the forest floor in his collection of essays The Boilerplate Rhino. Author Adam Gollner praised the durian in The Fruit Hunters while giving a wary nod to a bizarre subculture of nomads who call themselves durianarians, who camp their way through Asia following the durian season. And in the mid-1800s, durian-lover Alfred Russel Wallace famously wrote that making a journey to the Southeast Asian durian districts is well worth the weeks of sailing just to have a taste. Even tigers, though built for beef-eating, can’t resist durians.
Next week: More fruits to eat locally when traveling globally.