Alfred Russel Wallace

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Wallace, Alfred Russel


Born Jan. 8, 1823, in Usk, Monmouthshire; died Nov. 7, 1913, in Broadstone, Dorset. English naturalist who developed the theory of natural selection simultaneously with C. Darwin.

From 1848 to 1852, Wallace explored the Amazon River and the Rio Negro (to 1850 in the company of the naturalist H. W. Bates), and from 1854 to 1862, he explored the Malay Archipelago. On the Malay expedition, Wallace collected zoological, botanical, and geological specimens (more than 125,000 items), carried out craniological research on the peoples of the archipelago, and compiled dictionaries of 75 dialects. Wallace was one of the founders of zoogeography; he demonstrated that a boundary (Wallace’s Line) runs along the Malay Archipelago dividing the zoogeography of the Celebes Islands (Sulawesi) from the rest of the islands of the archipelago. Wallace thought (1855) that the appearance of each species is geographically and chronologically linked to the closest preceding species. In 1858 he sent Darwin the manuscript of his article “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type.” In the article he proposed ideas that coincided with the theory of natural selection that Darwin had been working on for more than 20 years. Darwin presented Wallace’s article with a short exposition of his own theory to the Linnaean Society in London on July 1, 1858, and the society published the two works in its proceedings. Wallace coined the term “Darwinism.”

Wallace spoke out staunchly against Lamarckism; however, he did not understand the importance of mutation theory and Mendelism for the basis of Darwinism. Wallace maintained idealist views on the origin of psychic abilities in man and also believed in spiritualism.


The Malay Archipelago, vols. 1–2. London, 1869.
Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. London, 1870.
The Geographical Distribution of Animals, vols. 1–2. London, 1876.
Island Life. London, 1880.
My Life, new ed. London, 1908.
Letters and Reminiscences, vols. 1–2. London, 1916.
In Russian translation:
Estestvennvi podbor. St. Petersburg, 1878. (Translated from English.)
Darvinizm, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1911.
Tropicheskaia priroda, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1975.


George, W. B. Biologist Philosopher: Alfred Russel Wallace. London [1964].
Williams-Ellis, A. Darwin’s Moon: Alfred Russel Wallace. London, 1966.
McKinney, H. L. Wallace and Natural Selection. New Haven, 1972.