Papua Amulet by Wallace

A wooden statue from Papua. Illustration in 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Papua Warrior

A Papua warrior. The people of Papua New Guinea (Irian Jaya) are distinctivly different from the Malays in the northwest of the Archipelago. Image from Wallace's 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

A Young Dayak by Wallace

A young Dayak on Borneo. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

A Javanese Chieftain by Wallace

A Javanese chieftain. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Malay Chieftain by Wallace

A Malay chieftain. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

People on Timor by Wallace

People in Timor, sketched after a photography. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Old Relief by Wallace

An old relief which Wallace got as a present in Java. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Orang Utan by Wallace

A female orangutan. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Orangutan by Asienreisender

A young orangutan in the zoo of Songkhla, Thailand. Image by Asienreisender, 2005

Female Orangutan by Asienreisender

A female orangutan in the zoo of Songkhla. Image by Asienreisender, 2005

Kingfisher Paradise Bird

A kingfisher paradise bird, sketched by Wallace. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Long-Nosed Monkey on Borneo

A long-nosed monkey on Borneo.

Cuscus Ornatus

A cuscus ornatus, a marsupial on the Molluccan Islands. Sketch from 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Elymnias undularis

Elymnias undularis, described by Wallace, also seen on Ko Chang in south Thailand as on the image at the bottom.

Primula Imperialis by Wallace

A Primula imperialis. From 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

Charles Darwin, late 1830s or 1840

Charles Darwin in the late 1830s or 1840 as a young man, joining the British scientific elite. Painting by G. Richmond

Charles Darwin in 1859

Charles Darwin in the age of 50, at the release of 'The Origin of Species'.

Charles Darwin in 1868 by M. Cameron

Charles Darwin in 1868 by Margaret Cameron, meanwhile with the bushy beard.

Charles Darwin as an Ape, 1871

One of many depictions of Darwin as an ape, after the publication of 'The Descent of Man', 1871

Alexander von Humboldt

Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859), paradigmatic explorer and natural scientist, who set grand standards for modern sciences as botany, zoology, geography.

Thomas Robert Malthus

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), engl. parson and national economist, set (negative) standards on human population sciences. In his publication 'On the Principle of Population' (1798) he argued that a human population is always faster growing than the food sources do. Starvation, diseases, war and other nuisances are therefore natural regulations to avoid overpopulation. Both, Darwin and Wallace, considered Malthus ideas concerning the principles of natural selection.

Charles Lyell

Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875), was together with James Hutton the founder of modern geology. In his main work 'Principles of Geology' (1830-33) Lyell argued that geological appearances are the result of very long-term geological activities, much longer than the 5,000 years the earth was supposedly (following the Christian doctrin) old. Lyell was a friend of Darwin and a supporter of Wallace and defended the theory of evolution.

Thomas Pain (1805)

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), one of the most progressive thinkers of his time, was of great inspiration for Wallace's social ideas and engagements.

Alfred Russel Wallace



The Man in Darwin's Shadow

Nineteenth century travelling is legendary, for in that time the nature was still intact apart from the few small places where civilization set foot on already, and travelling seems to have been adventurous with the old means of transport like sailing vessels and horses.

Alfred Russel Wallace in Singapore

Wallace in Singapore, 1862, shortly before he left back to England. It's the only picture of him done in the whole time he spent in the Malay Archipelago.

In 1854 a man arrived in Singapore who can be counted as one of the greatest minds of the 19th century. Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), a former land surveyor from England, who spent already a couple of years in the tropical Amazon region collecting animals (mostly insects), came to expand his collection and experiences in the Malay Archipelago. In the following eight years he made 70 journeys through the whole, huge archipelago. In 1858 he came to the clear and elaborated conclusion that animals are not representing a fixed shape and capabilities, but being highly versatile, ever adapting to their changing environments. Species are undergoing a permanent change respective development, and the driver for that change is natural selection. Russel wrote a great deal of essays on this topic and sent letters to England to reconfirm his position. One of his pen pals was Charles Darwin, an already accepted member of the scientific community in England. Darwin became over the time more and more impressed by Wallace's ideas, particularly when he received a letter in June 1858, in which Wallace outlined the 'theory of evolution'. That was exactly the concept which was stored in Darwin's drawers since 17 years, who hesitated to publish it. Wallace even used mostly the same key terms for his theory as Darwin did.

Moth by Asienreisender

A moth, seen in Ranong, south Thailand. Here, along the Tenasserim Mountain Range, the wildlife is pretty similar to that further south on the Malay Peninsula. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

The arrival of Wallace's letter made history. Darwin decided now to publish his main work 'On the Origins of Species' (1859), a book which changed the world.

Alfred Russel Wallace is the 'man in Darwin's shadow', the widely forgotten co-discoverer of the 'theory of evolution', what was in the 19th century still called the 'Darwin/Wallace theory of evolution'. He travelled and studied great parts of the Malay Archipelago, a huge area what is now covered by the states of Malaysia and Indonesia, and published his experiences of the journeys in his splendid two volumes 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869). It is one of the finest travel narratives ever written.


Early Biographical Sketch

Alfred Russel Wallace was born in 1823 in Llanbadoc in Monmouthshire as the eighth child of his parents. He went to a grammar school in the years 1828 to 1836, when the financial situation of the family forced him to leave school and to earn an income. He was then just 14 years old. Except of these eight years he never attended a regular school anymore or gained any formal educational graduation. What he further on learned was due to his own activities and experiences.

Wallace in young years

Wallace in his young years (1848?)

Next he worked for a time as a construction worker in London. In this time he went to lectures in the Institute for Mechanics, used the library there and came in contact with the social ideas of Thomas Paine and Robert Owen.

In 1837 he left London to absolve an apprenticeship as a land surveyor under the supervision of his eldest brother William. In 1843 the business run bad and Alfred lost the job when he was twenty years old.

After a short time of unemployment Wallace got hired at the Collegiate College in Leicester as a graphic designer, cartographer and land surveyor. He spent much of his time in the public library. Here he read the famous (and still partially paradigmatic) 'Essay on the Principle of Population' by Robert Thomas Malthus and got to know a new friend, Henry Bates. Bates convinced Wallace to start collecting insects.

In 1845 his brother William died and Alfred tried together with another brother to run William's business, but it failed. Some months later Wallace found a job in a railway project in the Neath river valley. He spent much time in the countryside collecting insects, his new hobby.

Alfred convinced his brother John to found an architect and engineering buero. Among the projects of the new firm was the construction of the Institute of Mechanics in Neath. Wallace was then invited by the institute's director to give lectures there. He and his brother bought a cottage and lived there together with their mother and sister Fanny. In this time Wallace was an ambitious learner and reader. With his friend Bates he exchanged letters on the ideas in the books 'Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation' by Robert Chamber, in this time published anonymiously, 'The Voyage of the Beagle' by Charles Darwin, the 'Principles of Geology' by Charles Lyell and other works, among them also Alexander von Humboldt's 'Cosmos'.

Journey to South America

Wallace in Brazil

On his first great journey to south America Wallace was enormously diligently collecting, mapping and writing. A great loss was the losing of his whole belongings on the way back to England.

Inspired by plenty of ideas of these great minds Wallace and his friend Henry Bates decided to travel to Brazil in 1848. They planned to collect insects to sell collections to collectors in the United Kingdom and were in hope to discover indications or proofs for the transmutation of species.

Beside collecting Wallace mapped the Rio Negro and wrote records on the people and languages of the indigenous people he met, as well as on the botany and wildlife.

In 1852 Wallace started the trip back to England on the brig 'Helen'. After 28 days on sea the ship's freight started to burn and the ship sunk. The passengers were forced to leave the ship; Wallace lost his whole collection and could only rescue parts of his diaries and sketches. The passengers and crew of the Helen were drifting for ten days in an open boat until they got rescued by another brig.

When being back in England, Wallace wrote and published six articles, a scientific travel narrative 'On the Monkeys of the Amazon' and established contact with other British naturalists, particularly Charles Darwin.


The Malay Archipelago

In 1854 Wallace started his second great voyage, this time into the Malay Archipelago. With Singapore as kind of a base he undertook some seventy extensive journeys over the huge archipelago which stretches out 1,300 miles in north-south and 4,000 miles in east-west direction. Here he collected over 125,000 specimen of animals, most of them insects, but also numerous amphibians, birds and mammals. Many of them were new to science. One of the famous specimen is the 'Wallace flying frog' or 'gliding tree frog' (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). Wallace depicted in detail how this species was in a state of transfer.

The Wallace Frog, Gliding or Flying Frog

The 'Wallace Frog', a so called 'flying frog', rather a sliding frog, jumping from a higher point, e.g. a tree, to another plant several meters away, what saves him the effort and danger to climb down, walk over and climb up again on the other side. A species in transfer, using it's webs for gliding. Sketches by A.R. Wallace, the two left in his notebook, the one right is an illustration in 'The Malay Archipelago' (1969)

Wallace was one of the, if not the first Westerner who observed and caught some of the legendary paradise birds in their natural habitats. He sent a collection of them to England.

Hunting Orangutans

Wallace is well known for collecting countless of insects and discovering a great number of till then unknown species. In fact he collected anything he could get in the jungle and sent it to England. The complete title of his book from the East Indies is: "The Malay Archipelago: The land of the orang-utan, and the bird of paradise. A narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature." The most spectacular animals he collected were mammals and birds of paradise. Since Wallace was depending on making an income from his collections, he hunted all animals. It's pitifull to read over many pages how he is chasing orangutans in the jungle and shooting them in the treetops. For a hunting experience he had, when he shot a mother orangutan and tried to grow up her baby, have a look at the orangutan page.

Orangutan, hunted by Dayak People

A Dayak getting bitten by an orangutan while chasing him. Sketch from 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

On Borneo Wallace lived among the Dayak (Dyak) people in the jungle. The Dayak had a notorious recommendation as head-hunters. They also hunted orangutans when they came close to their villages. Wallace notes that they did so because the great apes were eating from the same sources of fruits around as the villagers did. Let's have a look for an incident of that kind in his own words (the term 'Mias' used by Wallace is the Dayak word for orangutan):

"(...), on June 4th, some Dyaks came to tell us that the day before a Mias had nearly killed one of their companions. A few miles down the river there is a Dyak house, and the inhabitants saw a large Orang feeding on the young shoots of a palm by the river-side. On being alarmed he retreated towards the jungle which was close by, and a number of the men, armed with spears and choppers, ran out to intercept him. The man who was in front tried to run his spear through the animal's body, but the Mias seized it in his hands, and in an instant got hold of the man's arm, which he seized in his mouth, making his teeth meet in the flesh above the elbow, which he tore and lacerated in a dreadful manner. Had not the others been close behind, the man would have been more seriously injured, if not killed, as he was quite powerless; but they soon destroyed the creature with their spears and choppers. The man remained ill for a long time, and never fully recovered the use of his arm.

They told me the dead Mias was still lying where it had been killed, so I offered them a reward to bring it up to our landing-place immediately, which they promised to do. They did not come, however, till the next day, and then decomposition had commenced, and great patches of the hair came off, so that it was useless to skin it. This I regretted much, as it was a very fine full-grown male. I cut off the head and took it home to clean, while I got my men to make a close fence about five feet high round the rest of the body, which would soon be devoured by maggots, small lizards, and ants, leaving me the skeleton. There was a great gash in his face, which had cut deep into the bone, but the skull was a very fine one, and the teeth remarkably large and perfect."

From A.R. Wallace, 'The Malay Archipelago', 1869, Vol. I

Wallace Line and Wallacea

When crossing the deep-sea trench between Bali and Lombok as well as between Borneo and Sulawesi Wallace noticed a significant change in biology. The Southeast Asian tropical fauna and flora changed to a rather Australian, but it was still different. Some of the islands between the great Sunda islands and Australia and New Guinea have very isolated and peculiar populations, whereas further southeast they are close to the biology of Australia. In the last ice age, Wallace concluded, there was a land bridge between the major Southeast Asian islands as Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, whereas Australia was connected with Papua New Guinea and others. Some of the islands between the continents were always isolated. Few or no mamals settled down there, and the higher species living there arrived on chance on rafts or were mostly birds or brought by immigrating humans.

Wallace in the Jungle

A stylized painting of Wallace in the jungle, with his notebook and two birds of paradies in front of him, nicely dressed, in the background his jungle hut.

This biogeographical border across Southeast Asia is now called the 'Wallace Line'. The Wallace Line is the most distinctive biogeographic border on the planet.

In addition to the Wallace Line there are two other biogeographic lines further southeast. The Lydekker Line separates Australia and New Guinea from the islands northwest of them. The differences have their cause in the last ice age. 70,000 to 40,000 years ago the sea level was about 50 to 125 meters lower than it is now; considerable parts of the world's oceanic waters were frozen and piled up at the arctic poles who were much larger than they are now. Therefore the great Sunda islands Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo were connected with the Southeast Asian mainland, while Papua New Guinea (Irian Jaya) was connected with Australia. Both land blocks hosted different kinds of species, who were later, when the sea level lowered and the populations were isolated on a number of different islands, evolving in certain, local ways, adapting to the changing environments.

Wallaces Cottage

One of Wallace's cottages. In: 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869).

That explains why there are tigers on Sumatra and still were on Java and Bali in Wallace's time, who developed over thousands of years of isolation then slight differences. It's the same thing with the orangutans on Sumatra and Borneo, and there are many, many more examples for the separation of species and their evolution after being cut off from the mainland. There was for instance the immigration of homo erectus to Java (the 'Java Man'), early humans who used the landbridge in an earlier ice age than the last one.

Between the two big former land blocks of Australia (Sahul) and Southeast Asia (Sunda) are a number of islands who didn't belong to one of these blocks but were isolated since much, much longer, as Sulawesi for instance. They are surrounded by a sea deeper than 90m and there developed other certain species, very particular ones. Immigration barely happened, only when small groups of individuals survived being drifted accidentally from the mainlands to the islands. This group of islands is called 'Wallacea', bordered by the Wallace Line and the Lydekker Line.

Wallace Line and Wallacea by Asienreisender

Map of Wallacea with the Wallace Line, the Lydekker Line and the Weber Line. Wallacea is the region between the Wallace Line and the Lydekker Line. As so often, at a closer look things become more complicated. The Wallace Line has two variations, including or excluding the Philippine Islands. The Philippines weren't travelled by Wallace. In the south there is another biogeographical border introduced in 1899/1900 by the scientist Max W.C. Weber as a result of the Siboga expedition. One has to consider that the borders do not only separate islands but also include maritim life.

Wallacea is a biological 'hotspot', because it is home to a great number and variety of endemic species (they only appear here, nowhere else on earth), both land and water species. Wallacea stretches over 346,000km2. As anywhere else in Southeast Asia these hotspots are under heavy threat. The global socioeconomic system is based on profit and the suicidal fiction of eternal growth, therefore it lives parasitic from the exploitation of nature (and labour). Since the 1850s a great part of the local biodiversity got destroyed already, and the speed of destruction seems to accelerate.

A Snake in the House

Removal of an intruder. Illustration from 'The Malay Archipelago' (1869)

In Southeast Asia Wallace elaborated his ideas on evolution and the origin of species. Particularly legendary is his splendid idea of the natural selection, which was an inspiration he had when suffering heavy fevers caused by a malaria infection and was still thinking his ideas over and over.

In 1858 Wallace wrote his legendary essay on natural selction in a letter to Charles Darwin. The essay was published in England and triggered finally Darwin's long delayed decision to publish his theory of evolution in his main work 'The Origin of Species' (1859). Darwin feared now very much he could be too late.

In 1868 Alfred Russel Wallace published his studies and adventures in Southeast Asia in his famous scientific travel narrative 'The Malay Archipelago', which became one of the most populous scientific works of the 19th century. Wallace dedicated it to Charles Darwin who praised the book. Also Charles Lyell and the famous novel author Joseph Conrad, who used it as an important source of information for his famous novel 'Lord Jim' and others, very much appreciated the work.


The Theory of Evolution

The unquestioned believe of the western mainstream of the mid 19th century was that god created all beings, plants and animals. If a species would die out, god might create a new one. Man was considered as the crown of creation. The earth was, according to the biblic believe, about 5,000 years old. This ancient doctrin was constitutive for the Christian churches.

When Wallace started his career as a travelling naturalist he already favoured the idea of a transmutation of the species. This concept was seen as radical if not revolutionary and was highly under dispute. Wallace generally had a disposition for radical ideas in politics, sciences and religion.

A Leave like Insekt by Asienreisender

This animal lives in trees and bushes and uses a disguise as a leaf. Perfect camouflage. Image by Asienreisender, Ranong, 2012

When Wallace came to Amazonia he planned his work under the assumption, that closely relative species have to live in nearby areas. He noticed that big rivers formed barriers for some species and that species who are closely relativ to each other spread out on different sides of a barrier.

1855, being in Sarawak on Borneo, he published an article on the geographic distribution of species (biogeography). He saw that many of the species he collected and compared were very similar, but slightly different. The boundary between these species were blurred. They were on a very early state of separation. He concluded that any species emerged coincidentally with closely relative species in the same surroundings and at the same time. Later nature makes up a barrier for the survival of hybrids. This statement has been called later the 'Sarawak Law'. The Sarawak Law had also effects on the development of humans and their ancestors.

Though, it was still difficult to explain how species change and evolve to very different species, while the intermediate stages extinct. When Wallace was shaken by malaria fever he concluded the idea of the natural selection, based on the Malthusian idea of human population growth and it's regulatives as diseases, starvation, being killed by predators, intraspecific struggle and violence and more. Very little differences between individuals could decide over death or survival.

Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society from 1908

Wallace met Darwin the first time shortly before his departure to the East Indies in 1854. From 1857 on they were in regular letter contact and exchanged ideas on their theories and publications. Wallace trusted Darwin and sent him his essay 'On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type' and asked him to consider it and to give it also to Charles Lyell. This essay was actually a revolutionary challenge for the scientific community, questioning the pillars of the contemporary doctrine of creationism. Besides, it came from an outsider of the scientific establishment.

This letter reached Darwin in June 1858. Darwin was surprised, for it covered exactly his own ideas, using even many terms who Darwin used as headlines for his planned publication. But Darwin was hesitating already for almost twenty years to publish his theory. He wanted to be absolutely sure that there is really no exception that all beings evolve by natural laws following the theory of evolution. Darwin, who in young years had the plan to become a parson, was also troubled by the consequences of his idea. The theory of evolution meaned to kill god. Darwin feared for his reputation and the strike back of the clergy.

The Wallace essay was presented to the scientific Linnean Society of London, together with two papers from Darwin, to manifest Darwin's priorities.

Although he wasn't informed about the publication, Wallace accepted it fully. It was anyway questionable if Wallace's idea would have been accepted in the scientific circles of the time. Wallace didn't represent any status, while Darwin was an established member of the scientific society with a high reputation. That changed due to the presentation, and Wallace himself became accepted as well.

Nevertheless it remains a thrilling question what would have been if Wallace didn't inform Darwin but would have gone straight to publication? Would we speak then nowadays about 'Wallacism' and 'Wallace's theory of evolution'?

A year later Darwin published his main work 'The Origin of Species'. When Wallace came back to England in 1862 he met Darwin and both respected each other in friendship.

Nevertheless some authors later argued sceptcial about this version. Some claim that there has been a conspiracy against Wallace and that Darwin took advantage on Wallace, taking one of Wallace's ideas as his own. But there seems to be no hard evidence for these claims. Wallace himself never opposed against Darwin or blamed him for such things, but on the contrary defended 'The Origin of Species' at many occasions for the rest of his life. Particularly the clergy was very ambitious to attack the Darwin/Wallace theory of evolution.

Differences between Darwin's and Wallace's Ideas

While Darwin emphazised the competition within a species in the struggle for survival, Wallace focussed the challenge of survivial of a species on the adaption to the ever changing environments. Darwin's classical example is the adaptation of the male peacock with his grand and colourful featherdress. Darwin wondered why a species would bring such an appearance out for it would mean rather a danger, easily to be detected by predators. Darwin's answer was the advantage male peacocks would have to find a female partner and to have a larger number of descendents than a more modest looking peacock. Sexual selection was, for Darwin, the answer. Though, he wrote in a letter to Wallace that that couldn't be the case at caterpillars. Wallace described in his reply observations on butterflies who have a bitter taste and a strange smell; their flashy colour is meaned as a warning for birds to eat them.

Peacock by Asienreisender

The beautiful male peacock developed his magnificient feather dress, after Darwin, to impress females. But it has also another effect; it's pretending to make him a much bigger animal as he is, and even more that that, all the funny eyes on his feathers make him look like many individuals. Image by Asienreisender, in a Chinese temple in Ranong, 2012

Wallace Effect

Wallace emphazised that natural selection is erecting a barrier between two brances of a species, who are on the way of separating into two new species. After the separation process has been advanced to a certain point, both branches would adapt to certain environmental aspects; hybrids, common decendents of individuals from two separating branches, would face disadvantages in the natural selection, for they are less well adapted to the environment. Natural selection would favour barriers for hybridization, individuals who avoid hybrid offspring would create better adapted breed and therefore contribute to the reproductive isolation of the emerging new species. This hypothesis is called the 'Wallace Effect' and still topic of scientific research. Computer simulations and empiric results support the validity of the Wallace Effect.

Wallace, Beetle Collection

No other kind of animal appears so plentifyl on the planet as beetles do. Their manyfold species are often close by each other and a good example on how it looks in an early stage when they separate.

Natural Selection and Man

In 1864 Wallace published an essay 'The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deducted from the Theory of Natural Selection', in which he applied the theory of natural selection on man.

1865 Wallace became spiritualist and claimed that natural selection couldn't explain the evolving of mathemathical, musical and artistical genius as well as the capability for metaphysical thoughts, mind and humour. He argued that there were at least three interferences in the process of evolution: the first was the change to life out of unorganic matter; the second the formation of consciousness in higher animals and the third the evolvement of the higher mental abilities of man.

Darwin was distressed by these views. He argued that spiritual explanations are not necessary to explain mental phenomenons; sexual selection would explain it well. Darwin represented the clear scientific approach that everything can be exclusively explained by natural laws.

Nevertheless remained Wallace as a convinced defender of the principle of natural selection for his life long. While the theory of evolution was completely accepted in the scientific world from at least 1880 on, few members of the scientific community accepted that natural selection would be the driving force for the origin of species.

There has to be added that the scientific world had yet no hint on the second key factor in evolution: mutation. The discoveries of genetics were not in sight yet.


Biogeology and Ecology

From 1872 and again 1874 on Wallace worked on a global survey of the distributions of species. He elaborated a system of six biogeographic regions which is still in use. It includes considerations on the biological effects of former ice ages and land bridges between continents and isolated islands. The resulting publication was 'The Geographical Distribution of Animals' (1876), which was followed by it's continuation 'Island Life' (1880).

Remarkable to see that Wallace was an early warner of the effects of human landscape transformation. He named deforestation and following erosion as harmful, predicted climate-changing long-time effects as the results of logging and for large-scale coffee cultivation. He argued that it would contribute to the impoverisation of the people in the affected areas. He also described the effect of invasive species, brought by humans in areas where they weren't endemic and their harmful effects on the local, often fragile biology.

Wallace described already that around expanding Singapore displacement and extinction of species occured.

While being on a lecture tour in the USA in 1886/87 Wallace studied the botany of the Rocky Mountains and collected evidence for a theory of similar effects of the ice ages in America and Europe.


Late Biographical Sketch

When Wallace came back to England in 1862 he stayed for the first years with his sister Fanny and her husband. He held numerous lectures, ordered his collections. He visited Darwin and got to know Charles Lyell and Herbert Spencer. He was in close contact with the scientific England of his time and discussed the effects of natural selection.

Although it's nowadays rather seen so that Wallace's role in the history of science was merely to trigger Darwin's publication of the 'Origin of Species', it was much more. Wallace followed own ideas who were in parts clearly different from Darwin's. Darwin was fully aware of this fact and appreciated Wallace as one of the leading thinkers of the time; both exchanged mutually letters and essays and inspirated each other. Wallace is the most quoted author in Darwin's 1871 publication 'The Origin of Man', where Darwin also points out views seen differently by Wallace.

Alfred Wallace made a disappointing experience with a young woman with whom he became engaded but who divorced soon later. From 1865 on he started experiencing with spiritualism.

In the Victorian era some members of the establishment, who were unsatisfied with the religious doctrins of the Church of England and impressed by the emerge of the explanation of the world by natural sciences, employed in spiritualism, for they didn't feel well to interprete the world completely materialistic and mechanically, following the ideas of natural laws only. One biographer argued that Wallace's turn to spiritualism was due to his very disappointing experience with his fiancée from 1864. Others point out that spiritualism was for Wallace a matter of rational, scientific research and not of religion. However, spiritualism wasn't accepted in the scientific world and it damaged Wallace's reputation as a scientist seriously. For many he was seen therefore as a scientific 'heretic'.

1866 he married Annie Mitten and they had three children, of who one died in his early years. From the late 1860s on Wallace faced financial difficulties and became very worried about the financial security of his family. After his comeback from the East Indies he had earned a good deal from his collections and didn't need to worry about money; but since his agent lost much of it in stocks, the situation changed. He didn't get a safe employment and had to publish and do some jobs for administrations; besides he edited some of the works for Darwin and Lyell. Darwin finally managed in 1881 that Wallace got a state pension for his scientific merrits, what relieved the situation completely.

Social Activities

Alfred Wallace always distrusted authorities and favoured since young years socialist ideas.

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace.

The influential economist, philosopher and social reformer John Stuart Mill was impressed by critical remarks on the English society, which Wallace made in 'The Malay Archipelago'. Mill invited Wallace to join the 'Land Tenure Association'. Wallace wrote some articles on political and social topics until 1879, when he fully engaged in the discussion on land reform and trade laws. Wallace argued that rural areas should be in the property of the state and the state should rent plots then to tenants. They would expectedly run the property then in a way which would be most beneficial for the whole society. Such measures would break the abusive power of rich land owners in Britain. In 1881 Wallace became the elected president of the 'Land Nationalization Society'. A year later he published his book 'Land Nationalization; It's Necessity and its Aims'.

Wallace also critizised certain British regulations on free trade and it's negative effects on the working class. In 1889 he read Edward Bellamy's book 'Looking Backward' and called himself a socialist. He argued against social darwinism and eugenic. Society was, as Wallace and other prominent thinkers argued, to corrupt and unjust to decide who is fit for survival and who not.

Wallace followed a number of other social ideas until the end of his life, such as the right to vote for women, emphazised the dangers of militarism and the waste it means. He also argued for a paper money standard and the abolishment of the gold standard for certain reasons.

Parallel to his social works and engagement he continuously worked on his scientific ideas. Alltogether Wallace led a enourmously productive life.

Alfred Russel Wallace died 1913 in the age of almost 91 years in his cottage 'old orchard'. His grave is placed on a graveyard in Broadstone in Dorset at the English-Welsh border.

2013 is the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death.

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Published on August 23th, 2013