Wallace | Alfred Russel | 1823-1913 | naturalist

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

Alfred Russell Wallace was educated at Hertford Grammar School. At the age of 14 he became an apprentice land surveyor and architect to his brother William, and for the next 8 to 10 years he created accurate surveys and maps of farmlands, parishes and public lands in Bedfordshire and Wales. This experience taught him of the importance of making accurate observations and detailed recordings, skills that would prove invaluable to him in later life. Soon after this Wallace was appointed to the position of drawing master at the collegiate school in Leicester. It was here that he made the acquaintance of Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892), who then introduced him to the field of botany. Wallace became particularly interested at this stage in beetles.

In 1848 Bates and Wallace travelled to the Amazon on expedition. Two years later they decided to split up in order to cover a larger area and each wrote an account of his travels and observations. Wallace published his Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro. From 1854-1862 he made a tour in the Malay Archipelago, where he collected biological specimens for his own research and for sale, and writing a large number of scientific articles on mostly zoological subjects, among these were two articles dealing with the origin of new species. The first of these, published in 1855, concluded with the assertion "every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species." He then proposed that new species arise from the development and continued divergence of species that live longer than the parent species in the struggle for existence.

In 1858 he sent a paper to Charles Darwin (1809-1882) outlining these notions. The resulting theories of both men were published in a joint article under the title of: On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; and On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection, in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society in 1858. Wallace returned to England in 1862 as an established natural scientist and geographer as well as a collector of more than 125,000 animal specimens.

In addition to the writing of several major scientific works Wallace pursued a variety of social and political interests. In both his writing and in the lectures that he gave, Wallace was an ardent opponent of eugenics, vaccination and vivisection, whilst he strongly supported women's rights and land nationalisation.


no information available

Other Significant Information

Notable publications:

Travels on the Amazon, (1853)

Palm Trees of the Amazon, (1853)

The Malay Archipelago, (1869)

Natural Selection, (1870)

Miracles and Modern Spiritualism, ( 1874)

The Geographical Distribution of Animals, ( 1876)

Tropical Nature, (1878)

Australasia, (1879)

Island Life , (1880)Land Nationalisation, (1882)

Bad Times, (1885)

Darwinism, (1889)

Vaccination a Delusion, (1898)

The Wonderful Century its Successes and its Failures, (1898)

Studies Scientific and Social, ( 1900)

Man's Place in the Universe, (1903)

My Life, (1905)

Is Mars Habitable? , (1907)

The World of Life, (1910)

Social Environment and Moral Progress, ( 1912)

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

1868: Awarded Royal Medal, Royal Society of London

1882: Awarded Honorary doctorate, University of Dublin

1889: Awarded Honorary doctorate, University of Oxford

1890: Awarded Darwin Medal

1892: Awarded Gold Medal, Linnean Society of London

1892: Awarded Founder's Medal, Royal Geographical Society

1893: Appointed Fellow, Royal Society

1908: Awarded Copley Medal

1908: Awarded Order of Merit

1908: Awarded Darwin-Wallace Medal


List of sources for the biographical information:

Howard, HV, Chamber's Dictionary of Scientists , (London and Edinburgh, W and R Chambers Ltd, 1951)

Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol 23, ( London, William Benton, 1964)

Britannica.com and Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc: Wallace Alfred Russel, ( http://www.britannica.com/, 1999-2000)

Charles H Smith, Western Kentucky University: The Alfred Russel Wallace Page, ( http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/index1.htm, 2000-2002)