01 October 2012

Alfred Russel Wallace the naturalist (1823-1913) is now online

Wallace Online is the first complete edition of the writings of naturalist and co-founder of the theory of evolution Alfred Russel Wallace. Including a comprehensive compilation of his specimens - much of it never before seen. The project is directed by John van Wyhe, assisted by Kees Rookmaaker, at the National University of Singapore, in collaboration with the Wallace Page by Charles H. Smith.

The works of his co-author, Charles Darwin are at http://darwin-online.org.uk/

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) came from a rather humble and ordinary background. His father, a solicitor by training, once had property sufficient to generate a gentleman's income of £500 per annum. But the family's financial circumstances declined so the family moved from London to a village near Usk, on the Welsh borders, where Wallace was born in Kensington Cottage on 8 January 1823. 

When Wallace was six years old the family moved to Hertford, north of London, where he lived until he was fourteen. Here Wallace attended Hertford Grammar School which offered a classical education, not unlike Charles Darwin's at Shrewsbury School, including Latin grammar, classical geography and "some Euclid and algebra". Wallace left school aged fourteen in March 1837, shortly after Darwin returned from the Beagle voyage. Wallace never attended university.
 
Wallace then left home to join his elder brother John, an apprentice builder in London. Wallace spent his London evenings in an educational "Hall of science" for working men. In this context Wallace encountered the socialist ideas of the reformer Robert Owen. Wallace was deeply impressed by Owen's utopian social ideals - with a stress on the role of environment in determining character and behaviour. Hence if the social environment were improved, so would the morals and well being of the workers. The hall of science also introduced Wallace to the latest views of religious sceptics and secularists. Although Wallace's parents were perfectly orthodox members of the Church of England, Wallace became a sceptic.
 
 From 1837 Wallace joined his brother William as an apprentice land surveyor. Here for the first time you can see some of the original maps he contributed to. Wallace began to read about mechanics and optics, his first introduction to science. His days surveying in the open air of the countryside lead him to an interest in natural history. From 1841 Wallace took up an amateur pursuit of botany by collecting plants and flowers.
 
From 1840-1843 Wallace remained employed as a surveyor in the west of England and Wales. In 1843 his father died. With a decline in the demand for surveyors William no longer had sufficient work to employ Wallace. After a brief period of unemployment in early 1844 Wallace worked for over a year as a teacher at the Collegiate School at Leicester.
 
Thanks for the tip - it came from Raffles Museum News
 
 

No comments: