Wallace, Alfred Russel

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Wallace, Alfred Russel,

1823–1913, English naturalist. From his study of comparative biology in Brazil and in the East Indies, he evolved a concept of evolution similar to that of Charles DarwinDarwin, Charles Robert,
1809–82, English naturalist, b. Shrewsbury; grandson of Erasmus Darwin and of Josiah Wedgwood. He firmly established the theory of organic evolution known as Darwinism.
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. Like Darwin, he was greatly influenced by the writings of MalthusMalthus, Thomas Robert
, 1766–1834, English economist, sociologist, and pioneer in modern population study. A graduate of Cambridge, he was a professor at the East India College, London, from 1805 until his death.
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 and LyellLyell, Sir Charles
, 1797–1875, British geologist. After studying and briefly practicing law, he spent most of his life in travel and in popularizing scientific ideas.
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 and based his theories on careful observation. Wallace sent his paper on evolution to Darwin in 1858, and its striking coincidences to Darwin's own theory sparked the older, more cautious naturalist to publish On the Origin of Species the following year (and led Darwin's friends to move quickly to assure that his priority would be recognized). Wallace's especial contribution to the evidence for evolution was in biogeography; he systematized the science and wrote The Geographical Distribution of Animals (2 vol., 1876) and a supplement, Island Life (1881). His research in this field is commemorated in the name Wallace's lineWallace's line,
imaginary line postulated by A. R. Wallace as the dividing line between Asian and Australian fauna in the Malay Archipelago. It passes between Bali and Lombok islands and between Borneo and Sulawesi, then continues S of the Philippines and N of the Hawaiian Islands.
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. He also assisted H. W. BatesBates, Henry Walter,
1825–92, English naturalist and explorer. In 1848 he went with A. R. Wallace to Brazil, where he explored the upper Amazon, returning in 1859 with some 8,000 new zoological species. He was the first to state a plausible theory of mimicry.
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 in evolving an early concept of mimicrymimicry,
in biology, the advantageous resemblance of one species to another, often unrelated, species or to a feature of its own environment. (When the latter results from pigmentation it is classed as protective coloration.
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. Wallace's other works include Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (1870), Darwinism (1889), and Social Environment and Moral Progress (1913).


See his autobiography (2 vol., 1905); selections of his writings, ed. by J. R. Camerini (2001) and A. Berry (2002); biographies by P. Raby (2001), M. Fichman (2004), R. A. Slotten (2004), and M. Shermer (2006).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In 1870, Alfred Wallace, co-discoverer of Evolution, accepted a challenge to prove the roundness of the Earth to John Hampden, a committed Flat Earther.
Named for the 19th century explorer-naturalist Alfred Wallace, Wallace's Line is at the heart of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, one of the world's richest storehouses of biological diversity--both on land and under water.
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Not until the 19th century did Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace bring into view how the creative power of evolution could start from such a lonely beginning and yield such a diversity of living forms.
(22 to 28 February, 11am-4pm) Discover more about Alfred Wallace the forgotten evolutionist in the brilliant natural history exhibition.