ARCHIVE: Into the Limelight

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Science  07 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5549, pp. 2059a
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5549.2059a

Most people today know the English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) as the second person to conceive of natural selection, forever eclipsed by Charles Darwin. But at this biographical site, Wallace emerges from Darwin's shadow as a pioneer of the field of biogeography, an eloquent essayist, a plucky adventurer, and, overall, one of Britain's foremost Victorian scientists. He also embraced spiritualism, opposed vaccination, and defied Darwin by arguing that natural selection could not explain the complexity of the human mind.

Curator Charles Smith, science librarian at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, presents the story of this complex scientist through a thoughtful bio, contemporary interviews and obituaries, and Wallace's own words. FAQ pages address questions such as whether Darwin conspired to rob Wallace of credit for natural selection, as a few scholars contend. (Maybe, Smith says, but the evidence is paltry.) Along with a huge bibliography of works about Wallace, the site holds more than 100 of his original writings, including the 1858 essay on natural selection that spurred the dithering Darwin to finally publish his own work on the subject.∼smithch/home.htm

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