Cover image for Infinite tropics : an Alfred Russel Wallace anthology
Infinite tropics : an Alfred Russel Wallace anthology
Wallace, Alfred Russel, 1823-1913.
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Verso, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvii, 430 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


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QH375 .W35 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Alfred Russel Wallace's reputation has been based on the fact that, at the age of thirty-five and stricken with malaria in the Moluccan Islands, he stumbled independently on the theory of natural selection. Andrew Berry's anthology rescues Wallace's legacy, showing Wallace to be far more than just the co-discoverer of natural selection. Wallace was a brilliant and wide ranging scientist, a passionate social reformer and a gifted writer. The eloquence that has made his The Malay Archipelago a classic of travel writing is a prominent feature too of his extraordinary forward-thinking writing on socialism, imperialism and pacifism. Wallace's opinions on women's suffrage, on land reform, on the roles of church and aristocracy in a parliamentary democracy, on publicly funded education--to name a few of the issues he addressed--remain as fresh and as topical today as they were when they were written.

Author Notes

Born in Usk, Wales, Alfred Wallace had a very limited education, yet he became a noted naturalist and independently developed the theory of evolution, which is most commonly associated with the name of Charles Darwin. Wallace's formal education was completed with his graduation from grammar school at the age of 14. Having developed an interest in natural history, he avidly pursued this study during his years as a teacher in Leicester, England.

In 1848 Wallace went to Brazil to study animals of the Amazon. Returning to England in 1853, he departed a year later on an expedition to the East Indies, where he remained for nine years. It was during this time that he developed his theory of evolution, essentially the same theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest that Darwin had developed and had been painstakingly perfecting before making his views known. Wallace sent his paper setting forth his theory to Darwin, who recognized that his and Wallace's theories were the same. The theory was presented in a joint paper before the Linnaean Society, an organization of scientists, in London in 1858. With Wallace's agreement, Darwin was given the major credit for developing the theory because of the wide-ranging body of evidence that he had amassed in support of it.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This anthology of excerpts from the basic writings of Alfred Russel Wallace (l823-l913) introduces the reader to his pioneering explorations in natural science and his critical insights into social issues. He is best remembered for codiscovering, independently of Charles Darwin, the mechanism of natural selection to explain the process of organic evolution. Yet as an extensive traveler, astute observer, and avid collector, Wallace also made valuable contributions to entomology, ornithology, biogeography, and anthropology particularly as a result of his long-term research in the Amazon and Malaysia. He focused on insect camouflage and mimicry (especially in butterflies) and described numerous life forms, from the wild orangutan to the birds of paradise. However, after embracing both evolutionary teleology and theistic spiritualism, Wallace claimed that the human species is unique in this dynamic universe. Although he remains in Darwin's shadow, Wallace was an important naturalist during the Victorian age. Edited by Berry, a research associate at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, this excellent book on Wallace's life and thought is recommended for large academic and public libraries. [Coming in September from Oxford University Press is Michael Shermer's In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace. Ed.] H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Interest in the naturalist-social critic Wallace (1823-1913)--codiscoverer of the theory of natural selection--has risen considerably over the past few years. Less than a year ago a widely applauded biography (Alfred Russel Wallace: A Life, by Peter Raby, CH, Jan'02) appeared; early this year another biography and an anthology of his writings were published, and very shortly there will be two full-length studies. Moreover, and rather remarkably, a new volume by Wallace has just been announced, based on his 1851-52 in-the-field drawings of Amazonian fishes ("Fishes of the Rio Negro," organized by ichthyologist Monica de Toledo-Piza Ragazzo). Berry's anthology complements these works by drawing attention to the immense range of Wallace's interests. Berry's editorial commentary is succinct, accurate, and generally right to the point, and he has chosen his selections wisely, giving readers a splendid, if somewhat teasing, glimpse of Wallace's genius. The book is nicely organized, laid out, and indexed, with excellent reproduction of c.1850-1875 drawings and photos. The late Stephen Jay Gould wrote the foreword, one of his last published writings. All in all, an excellent introduction to an extraordinary thinker and personality. Highly recommended for all postsecondary readers. C. H. Smith Western Kentucky University

Table of Contents

Stephen Jay Gould
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Editor's Notep. xv
A Biographical Sketchp. 1
"A very dull, ignorant, and uneducated person"p. 2
Journeysp. 9
Intellectual Life: "Satisfaction, Retrospection and Work"p. 16
Domestic Life: "Gardening and rural walks"p. 19
Anthologyp. 27
Sciencep. 29
Evolutionp. 31
Beginningsp. 31
The "Sarawak Law"p. 32
The "Ternate Paper"p. 50
"Thunderbolt from a cloudless sky": Darwin and Natural Selectionp. 62
Evolution by Natural Selectionp. 69
Agreeing with Darwinp. 74
Disagreeing with Darwinp. 77
Female Choicep. 77
Geneticsp. 81
Name Selectionp. 86
Beyond Natural Selectionp. 87
Darwinismp. 105
Biogeographyp. 108
The Amazonp. 109
South-east Asia: "Wallace's Line"p. 112
Synthesisp. 117
Natural History and Conservationp. 125
The Amazonp. 127
South-east Asiap. 132
Conservationp. 146
Geography, Geology, and Glaciologyp. 154
Geologyp. 156
Glaciologyp. 164
Humansp. 167
"Uncivilised people"p. 169
"A being apart": Human Evolutionp. 175
Human Improvementp. 212
Spiritualism and Metaphysicsp. 221
"Strange Doings": Conversionp. 223
"To excite to inquiry": Spiritualism and Sciencep. 235
A World Viewed Through the Lens of Spiritualismp. 250
Travelp. 261
Expectationsp. 265
City Lifep. 270
Life in the Fieldp. 273
"An industrious and persevering traveller"p. 281
"Tedious and unfortunate": Hazardous Voyagesp. 290
"A want of harmony between man and nature": American Travelsp. 303
Social Issuesp. 307
Evolution of a Socialistp. 309
"Robbery of the poor by the rich": The Land Problemp. 319
Public Healthp. 333
Institutional Reformp. 342
Public Educationp. 351
Capitalism and Empirep. 357
Economicsp. 357
Globalizationp. 368
War and Imperialismp. 370
Coda: Wallace and Darwinp. 379
Notesp. 385
Bibliographyp. 413
Wallace's Major Publicationsp. 413
A Selection of Publications on or about Wallacep. 418
Indexp. 421