Monday, February 04, 2013

Letters of Alfred Russel Wallace Online

The collected letters of Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, have been put online by the Natural History Museum.  Wallace was the subject of a chapter in the David Quammen book The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction. The chapter was called "The Man Who Knew Islands." Where Darwin used the Galapagos Islands and the terrain of South America to devise his theory, Wallace used the islands of Indonesia.  The site is billed as having:
  • iconic correspondence between Wallace and Charles Darwin about evolution by natural selection
  • important observations and discoveries made when in the Malay Archipelago (1854 - 1862)
  • fascinating discussions on a variety of subjects, scientific and social such as glaciology, anthropology, epidemiology, astrobiology, socialism, land reform and spiritualism
Wallace was a spiritualist and began to infuse his scientific writings with spiritualism, a development which dismayed Darwin, who had gone to great lengths to show that natural selection could be thought of in scientific terms, alone.

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