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Alfred Russel Wallace - Biography


Alfred Russel Wallace - Biography

Alfred Russel Wallace, 1862 - Photo by James Marchant

James Marchant

Alfred Russel Wallace:

Born January 8, 1823 - Died November 7, 1913


Alfred Russel Wallace was born in 1823 in Monmouthshire, England. He was the eighth of nine children born to Thomas Vere Wallace and Mary Anne Greenell. After his father was swindled out of his money and property in 1835, Alfred was sent to London to live with his brother John. It was here he began studying Robert Owen and it wasn't long before he moved out of London to live with his brother William in Bedfordshire.

Alfred became a watchmaker for a few years before getting a job teaching drafting, surveying, English, and arithmetic at the Collegiate School in Leicester. He read many books, including works by Charles Lyell, at the college library that turned him on to being a naturalist. After his brother William died in 1848, Alfred decided to become a naturalist full time.

Alfred Russel Wallace traveled to South America and began working in the Rio Negro and Amazon. He cataloged and studied there until 1852. As he returned to England, the boat he was on caught fire and sank, taking most of his collection with it. This forced Wallace to take yet another trip, this time to Indonesia, to collect more specimens and data.

While in Indonesia, Wallace connected his ideas to Thomas Malthus' "survival of the fittest" and sent along his ideas to Charles Darwin with who he had an ongoing casual dialogue. Darwin's work was jointly presented along with Wallace's research to the Linnaean Society in 1858. Neither man was a the presentation, and Wallace wasn't even informed his data was used until after the meeting had occurred.

Even though Darwin then published his book On the Origin of the Species shortly after, Alfred Russel Wallace was content with the recognition he got in the scientific community for his contributions to the Theory of Evolution. He wrote no more about the idea of natural selection and became a spiritualist in 1860. Alfred Russel Wallace died in his sleep in 1913 at the age of 90.

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