Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) Collection

Scope and Content

Correspondence from Wallace's life after his return from the Malay Archipelago in 1862, as well as an assortment of personal papers, plates and some photographs. Many of the letters are from Wallace to the entomologist and chemist Raphael Meldola (1849-1915) or the evolutionary biologist Edward Bagnall Poulton (1856-1943).

Administrative / Biographical History

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), was a biologist, geographer, explorer and naturalist and one of the leading evolutionary thinkers of the 19th century. He is most well-known for independently developing the theory of natural selection concurrently with Charles Darwin. The publication of Wallace's paper 'On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type' in 1858 prompted Darwin to quickly publish 'On the Origin of Species' the following year. Wallace undertook extensive fieldwork in the Amazon River basin and the Malay Archipelago. He spent four years in the Amazon from 1848 - 1852 but unfortunately lost much of his collection in a fire on the ship upon which he returned to Britain. Afterwards, he spent eight years in the Malay Archipelago (1854 – 1862) building up a collection of 125,660 specimens, including 109,700 insects. Wallace identified the faunal divide now termed the Wallace Line, which separates the Indonesian archipelago into two distinct parts: a western portion in which the animals are largely of Asian origin, and an eastern portion where the fauna reflect Australasia. He was considered the 19th century's leading expert on the geographical distribution of animal species, and is sometimes called the "father of biogeography", or more specifically of zoogeography. Wallace was also one of the first scientists to write a serious exploration of the possibility of life on other planets.


Series Structure
A - Papers
A/1 – Articles and Obituaries
A/2 – Booklets
A/3 – Lists
A/4 – Memoir
A/5 – Miscellaneous
B - Artwork
B/1 – Plates
C - Correspondence
C/1 – Letters from Wallace
C/2 – Letters to Wallace
C/3 – Letters neither to or from Wallace
D - Photographs

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