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Watercolour painting of Wallace’s Flying Frog, Copyright A. R. Wallace Memorial Fund
Scientific discussion meeting organised by Dr George Beccaloni, Professor Dianne Edwards CBE FRS, Professor Steve Jones FRS and Professor Sir Ghillean Prance FRS.
This meeting will encompass Wallace’s major scientific interests including evolution, natural history, biogeography, colouration, sexual selection and astronomy and, a hundred years after his death, will examine and debate current thinking on many of the issues that preoccupied him, including very briefly his contributions to the social sciences.
Biographies of the organisers and speakers are available below and you can also download the draft programme (PDF). Recorded audio of the presentations will be available on this page after the event.The Twitter hashtag for this event is #wallacelegacy
This event is intended for researchers in relevant fields and is free to attend. There are a limited number of places and registration is essential. An optional lunch is offered and should be booked during registration (all major credit cards accepted).
Enquiries: Contact the events team.
Dr George Beccaloni, Natural History Museum, UK
This talk will largely focus on the first, and most interesting, half of Wallace's life - his childhood, the development of his interests in natural history and ‘species transmutation’, his four year trip to the Amazon with Henry Walter Bates, and finally his eight year expedition to the Malay Archipelago and the important discoveries he made there.
George Beccaloni works at the Natural History Museum, London, where he is the Curator of Orthopteroid Insects and the Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project. He is a co-executor of Wallace’s Literary Estate, the founder of the Wallace Memorial Fund, and in 2002 he helped the Museum acquire the World’s largest collection of Wallace-related manuscripts from Wallace’s descendants. In the past George has worked on the evolution of mimicry, macroecological patterns in butterfly-hostplant relationships, and novel methods to quantify the diet breadths of phytophagous insects. He created the online databases Wallace Letters Online, the Blattodea Species File, and the Global Lepidoptera Names Index (LepIndex), and has published five books including ‘Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace’ (co-edited with Charles Smith). His current research interests include Wallace and cockroaches. Recently he was the historical consultant for the BBC series ‘Bill Bailey's Jungle Hero’.
Professor Dianne Edwards CBE FRS, Cardiff University, UK
Dianne Edwards DE CBE FRS is currently Distinguished Research Professor and Director of Innovation and Engagement and previously Head of School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University, where she has spent almost all of her research career as a palaeobotanist investigating early land plants. Her interests outside the University include botanic gardens , conservation and the history of biology . As president of the Linnean Society, Dianne's concerns rest with the teaching and research of systematics and biodiversity and the roles of Learned Societies. She has recently been involved in the creation of The Learned Society of Wales and is the Vice President in charge of STEM subjects.
Professor Steve Jones FRS, University College London, UKWallace and the Limits to Natural Selection
Wallace, great biologist as he was, had odd ideas about human evolution. He felt that although our physical selves might have evolved through natural selection, this was not enough to explain what we are. He was sure that some higher power – the spirit – was involved. That notion had a strong connection with earlier ideas, such as those of Lamarck, who invoked a “law of necessary progress” the feeling that all animals tried to better themselves as they strove to a higher goal. Darwin hated such vague theories and relied on his simple mechanism of natural selection as the engine of evolutionary change. He was right, and our own species gives plenty of evidence that he was; but in the light of modern cladistics Wallace, although he was probably not right, cannot be proved wrong.
Steve Jones is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, from where he recently retired, after nearly forty years, as Professor of Genetics. His first degree and PhD are from the University of Edinburgh. He has spent some time at the Universities of Chicago, California, Botswana and Sierra Leone, and at Harvard University and Flinders University in Adelaide. His main research has been on the population genetics of land snails and fruit-flies and he has spent almost a tenth as long as did Alfred Russel Wallace in pursuing them in the field.
Professor Sir Ghillean Prance FRS, University of Reading, UK
Professor Sir Ghillean Prance was born in Suffolk in 1937 and was educated at Malvern College and Keble College Oxford where he obtained a BA in Botany and a D.Phil. His career began at the New York Botanical Garden in 1963 as a research assistant and subsequently B A Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany, Director and Vice-President of Research and finally Senior Vice President for Science. His exploration of Amazonia included 25 expeditions in which he collected over 350 new species of plants. He was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1988 to 1999. He was McBryde Professor at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii 2001-02 and is currently McBryde Senior Fellow there. He is Scientific Director and a Trustee of the Eden Project in Cornwall and Visiting Professor at Reading University. He is author of nineteen books and has published over 520 scientific and general papers in taxonomy, ethnobotany, economic botany, conservation and ecology. He holds fifteen honorary doctorates and in 1993 received the International COSMOS Prize and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was knighted in July 1995 and received the Victoria Medal of Honour from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1999. He received the David Fairchild Medal for plant exploration in 2000, and the Allerton Award in 2005. In 2000 he was made a Commander of the Order of the Southern Cross by the President of Brazil and in 2012 received the Order of the Rising Sun from Japan . He continues to be active with research in plant systematics and in conservation of the tropical rainforest. He chairs the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust, the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (MEMO), A Rocha International and the Development Committee of the Eden Project and is a board member of the Amazon Charitable Trust and the Exbury Gardens Trust. He is President of The Wildflower Society, Nature in Art and the International Tree Foundation.
Dr John van Wyhe, National University of Singapore, SingaporeWallace and Darwin: what really happened?
Since the mid-20^th century many conflicting stories about the co-discovery of natural selection and even extreme accusations against Darwin have appeared and continue to circulate widely. In this talk I will briefly set the record straight. Which one wrote to the other first, Wallace or Darwin? Who first broached the subject of evolution? Why did Wallace send his famous Ternate essay to Darwin of all people? And when did Darwin actually receive it? Were their papers arranged in an improper way? Finally, are there any grounds to the claims that Darwin might have borrowed from Wallace?
John van Wyhe is a historian of science, Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Biological Sciences and History and a Fellow of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore. He is the Director of 'Darwin Online' and 'Wallace Online', Professorial Fellow of Charles Darwin University, Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum (London). He has published eight books and numerous articles on Darwin and Wallace including: 'Dispelling the Darkness: Voyage in the Malay Archipelago and the discovery of evolution by Wallace and Darwin'. (2013) and 'Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago'.
Professor Janet Browne, Harvard University, USANatural selection a la Wallace
Wallace's ideas about natural selection were very much his own. They differed somewhat from Darwin's. In particular Wallace came to feel that natural selection was insufficient on its own to explain human evolution.
Janet Browne is Aramont professor of the History of Science at Harvard University where she teaches the history of biology. In 2002 she completed a two-volume biography of Charles Darwin. She is currently working on a cultural history of the gorilla. Her interest in Darwin and evolutionary theory stems from her time on the Darwin Correspondence Project, Cambridge, England.
Professor Charles H. Smith, Western Kentucky University, USAEarly Humboldtian Influences on Alfred Russel Wallace’s Scheme of Nature
Alfred Russel Wallace’s 1858 Ternate paper on natural selection is a famous work in the history of science. Beyond his co-discovery of the principle, moreover, Wallace is known for a large number of early applications of the idea, both to biological and biogeographical subjects. Yet how much do we really know about Wallace’s own evolution of thought, and his actual intentions before his views were swallowed up by the inertia of Darwin’s influence? A number of differences between Wallace’s and Darwin’s views are apparent and have been much treated over the years, but related discussions dwell more on effects than on causes. In this presentation, Wallace in his early years is shown to likely have been heavily influenced by the writings of Alexander von Humboldt and his disciples.
Charles H. Smith, PhD., FLS, is Science Librarian and Professor of Library Public Services at Western Kentucky University. He received degrees from the University of Illinois (PhD., Geography), University of Pittsburgh (MLS), Indiana University (MA, Geography), and Wesleyan University (BA, Geology). Dr Smith’s research has included investigations in history and philosophy of science, biogeography, bibliography, and systems theory leading to eight books (including one in preparation), several dozen papers, and a dozen “informational websites” focusing on Alfred Russel Wallace, biogeography, natural history bibliography and biography, and music reference. He is a member of the Linnean Society and several other organisations, and lectured in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Brazil, and Mexico. In April 2013 he was a recipient of the national President’s Call to Service Award for lifetime volunteerism, for his efforts in public-access website development.
Professor Lynne Parenti, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USAThe Modern Biogeographical Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace
Modern biogeography flickered with Alfred Russel Wallace’s 1858 hypothesis that the western part of the Malay Archipelago was “… a separated portion of continental Asia while the eastern part is a fragmentary prolongation of a former west Pacific continent.” Two principles—endemism and terrane fidelity –came together to bolster Wallace’s theory of organic evolution and to illustrate that life and Earth evolved together. Ironically, Wallace (1876) subsequently adopted a classification of six global zoogeographical regions even though he knew that it contradicted broad biogeographic patterns, such as trans-oceanic distributions. Today, our goal is to name biogeographical regions that reflect, not contradict, shared distribution patterns. We combine concepts such as endemism, terrane fidelity, and area relationships to discover biotic history. Inferred mechanisms of distribution –dispersal versus vicariance—are secondary. The Malay Archipelago, with Sulawesi in its centre, remains a biogeographical hotspot, which means that Wallace, too, remains at the centre of modern biogeography.
Lynne Parenti has been a Research Scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 1990. She received her B.S. from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and Ph.D. from the City University of New York. In 2005, she was a Distinguished Lecturer, Artedi Tricentennial Symposium on Ichthyology, Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. In 2010, she was awarded the Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize for an outstanding research publication for Comparative Biogeography: Discovering and Classifying Biogeographical Patterns of a Dynamic Earth (2009), co-authored with Malte Ebach. Lynne is a past-President, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists; Fellow, AAAS; Honorary Fellow, California Academy of Sciences; Honorary Member, Indonesian Ichthyological Society; and Adjunct Professor, George Washington University, where she directs postgraduate student research in systematic ichthyology. Her field collection of fishes in Singapore, Borneo, New Guinea, and Sulawesi has allowed her to walk in the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace.
Professor R.I. Vane-Wright, Natural History Musuem, UKWallace and Colouration
Wallace had clear knowledge of the physical and chemical basis of colour, and great awareness of the important roles that colour and pattern play in the lives of organisms, including inter- and intra-specific communication. Following a review of Wallace’s understanding of colour and perception, the presentation will briefly address the one area of evolutionary theory where Wallace disagreed fundamentally with Charles Darwin, sexual selection, and the potential importance of colouration in that debate.
Dick Vane-Wright has been associated with The Natural History Museum for over 40 years, where he specialised on butterflies. Following retirement in 2004 he held a Fellowship from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, and is now Honorary Professor of Taxonomy at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. His joint publications include Milkweed Butterflies (1984), The Biology of Butterflies (1984) and The Seymer Legacy (2005). He now largely divides his time between the history of entomology, butterfly taxonomy, and studies on worldviews, attitudes to nature and the conservation of biological diversity. Current collaborative projects include editing a set of papers on the role of behaviour in evolution for the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, a new book on the biology of butterflies, and a new approach to understanding wasp mimicry.
Professor Tim Caro, University of California, Davis, USAColouration today
Wallace’s Classification Of Organic Colours was a first attempt to outline different functions of colouration in nature. I describe how mechanisms for different aspects of protective colouration were subsequently sketched out by workers at the beginning of the 20th century; and how, during a rapid phase of experimental work in the last two decades, many mechanisms underlying his protective, warning and sexual colours have now been shown to occur in nature. However, we understand less about Wallace’s typical colours, and even less about the distribution of different forms of colouration across taxa, the ecological drivers of colouration, and the physiological consequences of colouration patterns. My talk therefore shows what we have learnt and have yet to learn since Wallace’s pathbreaking ideas.
As a behavioural ecologist, I use comparative methods to examine the functional significance of coloration across mammalian orders, including artiodactyls, lagomorphs, carnivores, cetaceans and pinnipeds. I conduct observations and experiments to tease apart the evolutionary drivers of contrasting coloration patterns in selected taxa including skunks and zebras. As a conservation biologist, I investigate forces acting on protected mammal populations in Africa including bushmeat and increasing isolation of protected areas. Trained in animal behavior but living during a time of extraordinary pressure on wildlife populations, I have repeatedly tried to link behavior and conservation through my own work and synthesizing that of others.
Professor James Mallet, University College London and Harvard University, UK and USAWallace's understanding of species and speciation
Soon after his return from the Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russel Wallace published one of his most significant papers. The paper followed many of the themes opened up by Henry Walter Bates 3 years earlier, and used butterflies as a model system to understand the evolution of mimicry and the origin of species. In a very important section, Wallace laid out what is perhaps the clearest definition by an early Darwinian of the differences between species, geographic subspecies, and local 'varieties.' He also discussed what is now termed 'reproductive isolation.' While he accepting it as a cause of species, he rejected it as a definition. Instead, species were recognized as forms that overlap spatially and lack intermediates, as had Darwin. This morphological distinctness argument appears to break down for discrete polymorphisms, but Wallace correctly diagnosed conspecificity of non-mimetic males and polymorphic female Batesian mimics in Papilio butterflies for the first time. Also in the 1860s Wallace wrote to Darwin about a suggestion that natural selection could lead to reproductive isolation, which the older man firmly rejected. When G.J. Romanes later published his theory of 'physiological selection' (a selective model for the origin of reproductive isolation), Wallace rebutted the idea in the pages of Nature. In his book Darwinism (1889), however, Wallace wrote up his own theory in a manner almost identical to what he'd outlined to Darwin in the 1860s, without apparently discussing why Darwin had rejected the idea. The problem with both Romanes' and some of Wallace's ideas is that they are inherently group selectionist; however, one part of Wallace's idea survives as today's model of 'reinforcement' in speciation.
James Mallet was educated at Oxford (BA Zoology), Newcastle-upon-Tyne (MSc Applied Entomology), and Austin, Texas (PhD Zoology). He is Professor of Biological Diversity at UCL and Distinguished Lecturer at Harvard University. He also holds honorary positions at The Natural History Museum London and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. In 2008, he was awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal by the Linnean Society of London for contributions to evolutionary biology.
His research has ranged from tropical field biology, applied entomology, systematics, evolutionary biology, population genetics and genomics. He has concentrated most effort on the genetics and evolution of ithomiine and heliconiine butterflies of South and Central American rainforests, and in understanding speciation and hybridization among species. Recently, he was corresponding author for the Heliconius Genome Consortium's publication in Nature, which documented genomic evidence for promiscuous gene flow among multiple species of Heliconius.
Professor Tim Birkhead FRS, University of Sheffield, UKWallace, Darwin and female choice
Wallace didn’t rate Darwin’s idea of sexual selection, at least, not as a much as Darwin. Wallace’s reservations – particularly with regard to female choice - anticipated the bumpy ride that sexual selection endured since Darwin. From the mid-1970s however, with a clearer view of how selection operates, sexual selection has enjoyed a spectacular Renaissance and is now considered to be as important as natural selection. I will explore the history of sexual selection, including Wallace’s criticisms, and discuss its rebirth, especially with respect to something neither Darwin nor Wallace even contemplated: the idea that sexual selection might continue beyond the choice of partner: post-copulatory sexual selection.
Tim Birkhead is a professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His research on promiscuity and sperm competition in birds helped to re-shape our understanding of bird mating systems. Tim has been president of the International Society for Behavioural Ecology and is currently president of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. In 1992 he initiated the on-going biennial Biology of Spermatozoa (BoS) meetings. As well as a passion for research, Tim is committed to undergraduate teaching (teaching animal behaviour and the history and philosophy of science). He is also committed to the public understanding of science. He has written or edited 13 books, including Promiscuity (2000). His award-winning popular science books include The Wisdom of Birds (2008) and Bird Sense (2012). He is married and has three children and a dog, enjoys walking, playing guitar and painting in his spare time.
Professor Ted Benton, University of Essex, UKWallace and human evolution
In 1859 Darwin had been evasive about human evolution, but Wallace addressed the question in 1864. His paper addresses two issues: the origin and significance of racial differences and the great mental gulf between humans and apes, despite the striking physical resemblances between them. The theory of evolution by natural selection can be used to explain both. At a certain point in the development of social dispositions and mental abilities in our ancestors, natural selection would have increasingly acted on these features, rather than bodily form. Cranial capacity would have increased greatly, leaving the rest of the body little changed. This approach was influential on Darwin’s argument in the Descent of Man, but in the meantime Wallace had become convinced that natural selection was insufficient to explain ‘higher’ human attributes. Darwin was horrified, but in fact their views had more in common than either recognised.
Ted Benton is professor of Sociology at the University of Essex. He has published extensively on critical social theory, philosophy of social and natural sciences, environmental sociology and history of ideas. He began his career as science teacher in a pioneering comprehensive school, and has maintained a keen interest in field natural history. He has published several books on aspects of entomolog including two works in the HarperCollins New Naturalist series. His most recent book is: Alfred Russel Wallace: Explorer, Evolutionist and Public Intellectual - a thinker for our own time? (Siri Science).
Professor Chris Stringer FRS, Natural History Museum, UKOld and new views on human evolution
Darwin and Wallace both wrote about human evolution when there was little relevant fossil evidence available, and none at all from the continent of Africa. Although both accepted that natural selection had produced many of the distinctive features of humans, Darwin developed a much more detailed model for the origins of bipedalism, tool-making, canine reduction and brain enlargement through feedback mechanisms stemming from selection to free the hands for manipulation, rather than locomotion. Darwin also proposed that ‘racial’ features had largely been added through the action of sexual selection. Wallace demurred over the importance of sexual selection in Homo sapiens, arguing that consistent tastes were unlikely to have persisted long enough and widely enough for it to operate on any scale. He also doubted that the correlated ‘perfection’ of human characteristics could have been produced by natural selection alone, and that “unknown causes” must also have been at work. In the case of the human brain, in particular, he came to argue that spiritual, rather than natural, forces must have been responsible for the evolution of the highest human faculties.
In the light of subsequent fossil and archaeological discoveries, it is possible to critique the views of both Darwin and Wallace concerning human evolution. We now know that canine reduction, bipedalism, tool-making and brain enlargement did not evolve in concert, but were spread out over several million years of evolution in Africa, with different species showing distinct combinations of traits. Thus these features probably developed through multifarious causes, rather than being locked in a feedback system. And while natural selection does seem to lie behind the evolution of the human brain and of many regional (‘racial’) features, sexual (or cultural) selection also seems to have played its part. Some of the issues with which Darwin and Wallace struggled have been resolved by new evidence, while the richness of the current fossil, genetic and archaeological records has raised many new issues which they could never have contemplated.
Professor Chris Stringer has worked at the Natural History Museum since 1973, and is now Research Leader in Human Origins and a Fellow of the Royal Society. His early research concentrated on the relationship of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, but through his work on the 'Out of Africa' theory of modern human origins, he now collaborates with archaeologists, dating specialists and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally. He has excavated at sites in Britain, Gibraltar, Morocco and Turkey, and is currently leading the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project in its third phase (AHOB3), which began in October 2009, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. AHOB is a major collaborative project to reconstruct the pattern of the earliest human colonisations of Britain and Europe. His recent books include The Complete World of Human Evolution (2011, with Peter Andrews), and The Origin of Our Species (2012).
Martin Rees FRS, University of Cambridge, UKWallace and the universe
In his later years, Wallace's restless intellect ventured far beyond the Earth. Especially in his two books "Man's Place in the Universe' and 'Is Mars Habitable?' he speculated on whether other planetary systems existed, whether they might be inhabited, and whether our cosmos was 'biofriendly'. This talk will describe some of Wallace's ideas, and place them in the context of recent discoveries about cosmology, extra-solar planets, and the emergence of life which would certainly have fascinated him.
Martin Rees OM, FRS is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and Astronomer Royal. He has been based for much of his career in Cambridge, where he has been Director of the Institute of Astronomy and (until recently) Master of Trinity College. He was President of the Royal Society during the period 2005-10 and in 2005 he was appointed to the House of Lords. He is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy, and several other foreign academies. His international awards include the Balzan Prize, the Bower Award of the Franklin Institute, the Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation, the Einstein Award of the World Cultural Council, and the Crafoord Prize (Royal Swedish Academy). He has been president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Astronomical Society and a trustee of the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Kennedy Memorial Trust, and the Institute for Public Policy Research. His main research interests are in high energy astrophysics and cosmology. He is also the author of numerous general articles and eight books, including 'Before the Beginning', 'Our Final Century?' 'Gravity's Fatal Attraction', 'Just Six Numbers', and (most recently) 'From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons', an expanded version of his BBC Reith Lectures.
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz FRS, University of Cambridge, UKThe Vaccination Controversy
Smallpox vaccination was introduced at the start of the 19th century. Its application to wider populations caused considerable debate towards the end of that century, and a significant anti-vaccination campaign arose, to which Alfred Russel Wallace was a notable contributor. The introduction of compulsion through legislation exposed tensions which are still evident today in national vaccination policies.
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge on 1 October 2010. The Vice-Chancellor is the principal academic and administrative officer of the University. Sir Leszek was previously Chief Executive of the UK’s Medical Research Council (2007-10). From 2001 to 2007 he was at Imperial College London, as Principal of the Faculty of Medicine and later as Deputy Rector, responsible for the overall academic and scientific direction of the institution. He led the development of inter-disciplinary research between engineering, physical sciences and biomedicine. In 1988 he was a Lecturer in Medicine at Cambridge. He went on to be Professor of Medicine at the University of Wales in Cardiff, where he led a research team that carried out pioneering work on vaccines. In particular, his unit in Cardiff conducted clinical trials for a therapeutic vaccine for human papillomavirus (a cause of cervical cancer) – the first in Europe. He was knighted in 2001 for services to medical research and education. He was a founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1996 and a member of its Council from 1997 until 2002; and he became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2008.
Dr David Stack, University of Reading, UKWallace, a social scientist’s perspective
This is an exploration of Wallace's contribution to social science and how this related to his more celebrated work as a natural scientist. In a wide-ranging paper, Prof. Stack outlines what 'social science' meant to Wallace and his generation; delineates the early intellectual influences, including Robert Owen and Thomas Malthus, which framed Wallace's thought; and argues that, beyond any conventional account of Wallace's reading, we must give due weight to his work and experiences as a collector and field scientist in shaping his social science. The paper concludes by asserting the significance of Wallace's distinct contribution as a biologist philosopher; noting the differences between Wallace's 'social science perspective' and Darwin's 'political economist's perspective'; and by demonstrating the value of 'remembering' Wallace as a social scientist.
Dr David Stack is a Reader in History at the University of Reading, with a strong interest in the relationship between the natural sciences and the humanities. He is the author of three monographs – Nature and Artifice (1998), The First Darwinian Left (2003), Queen Victoria’s Skull (2008) – and a number of articles on intellectual history. In 2012 he helped lead an AHRC-funded project exploring ‘The value of the literary and historical study of biology to biologists’. He is currently working on a study of John Stuart Mill and natural science and collaborating on a project to explore Alfred Russel Wallace’s place in the late-nineteenth century’s ‘evolving networks of knowledge’.
Dr Andrew Berry, Harvard University, USAThe Wallace legacy
This talk will attempt to draw together the many themes addressed both at this meeting and, in life, by Wallace. I will review Wallace's contributions in light of subsequent developments both in science and in the social sciences. What is often impressive is the robustness of his conclusions despite his ignorance of subsequent developments: his insights on disjunct biogeographic distributions, for example, have typically survived the addition of continental drift to our list of processes affecting distributions. Given the continued vitality of his work, Wallace's current obscurity relative to Darwin is all the more puzzling. I will review some of the factors that have contributed. My conclusion is that perhaps his most important legacy is the way in which he combined science and activism. Though certainly not always, with hindsight, right in the causes that he backed, Wallace should serve as a role model for the social engagement of science and scientists.
Andrew Berry's background is in population genetics, and he has a particular interest in approaches to detecting adaptive processes at the molecular genetic level. With an undergraduate degree in zoology from Oxford and a PhD from Princeton, he currently teaches evolutionary biology and history of science at Harvard. He first became interested in Wallace while doing fieldwork at Santubong Mountain close to Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, where, in 1855, Wallace penned his first major synthetic paper, The Sarawak Law. Berry has edited an anthology of Wallace's writings, Infinite Tropics (Verso, 2002).
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