26 Alfred Russel Wallace Facts: Biologist & Anthropologist!

Supriya Jain
Sep 01, 2023 By Supriya Jain
Originally Published on Jan 21, 2022
Edited by Lara Simpson
Alfred Russel Wallace facts will tell you more about Wallace’s papers and Wallace’s observations.

Born on January 8, 1823, the eighth child of the Wallace family in Monmouthshire was Alfred Russel Wallace.

Thomas Vere Wallace and Mary Anne Greenell raised their child in Wales. He spent his later years in Hertfordshire, England.

Wallace was a British naturalist who became famous in the late 19th century for his idea of evolution by natural selection that fueled Charles Darwin’s publication on the theory of evolution. Wallace has contributed to science, but his areas of expertise also range to social fields.

He has always concerned himself with the morals, social skills, and political ideas of every human.

Here we will learn more about Alfred Russel Wallace and his contributions to the world. Afterward, also check out Alfred Sisley facts and Alfred Stieglitz facts.

Early Life: Alfred Russel

Wallace had his early education from a one-room Hertford Grammar School. With lacking financial stability, his formal education was limited, but his parents made their home a place of books enriched with knowledge. He also learned about maps and gardening activities at home.

As a child, Wallace attended services as his parents were a part of the Church of England. But he wasn’t that religiously inclined.

He was diverted from the road to religion as he learned about secularism at London Mechanics’ Institute. Wallace lived with his brother John in London when he turned 14 and became an apprentice carpenter and learned about the lives of traders and other laborers and how they were getting self-educated.

William, Alfred Russel’s eldest brother, was in the line of surveying business. In 1837, Wallace followed the steps of his eldest brother for the next 8-10 years.

After William died in 1845, Wallace took care of his brother’s surveying business and helped his brother set up a mechanics’ institute with his brother, John. It was set up in Wales. Alfred Russel made his family move various times.

They started in Inner London, then to Barking, to Essex, to Surrey, to Croydon, then back to Surrey, to Parkstone, and finally to Broadstone. He has three houses, and he and his wife, Annie Mitten, maintained the gardens.

Social Activism: Alfred Russel

Working at the mechanics’ institute, the socialist thought started building up in little Wallace’s mind. Consequently, he grew a soft spot for those who had it tough. One could say that socialism became Wallace’s non-scientific major.

A philosopher and economist named John Stuart Mill left an impact on Alfred Russel’s mind.

Not only that, even John Stuart Mill was so moved by Wallace’s words, wrote in his publication ‘The Malay Archipelago,’ that it compelled Mill to ask Alfred to join his committee of the ‘Land Tenure Reform Association,’ which later got dissolved when Mill died in 1873.

In 1881, he became the founding president of Land Nationalization Society and was of the idea that the root of society’s ills and wrongs was caused by private ownership of land.

Wallace used his knowledge of science and socialism to talk about a huge range of issues prevailing at that time. He stood in favor of women’s voting rights.

He thought that medical practitioners were hiding the dangers the smallpox vaccination contained. He was into spreading awareness to the people about the scientific problem arising. Also, Wallace condemned the accumulation of wealth by a selected few as wrong.

What’s more, Wallace extensively preached to society about various issues, including women’s sufferings. Alfred Russel Wallace was a social activist till he died. Wallace published his last book ‘The Revolt of Democracy’ a few weeks before his death.

Working as a surveyor, Wallace stayed outside almost all of the time. A naturalist was budding inside him. His intellectual nature showed enthusiasm in natural history and politics, so he read the works of William Swainson, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, and many more. Wallace was inspired by Robert Chambers’s publication regarding natural history and Creation in 1844.

This was very controversial at that time. Wallace became a specimen collector and went to Brazil in 1848 with another naturalist, Henry Walter Bates, who became friends when Wallace worked as a teacher at a school in Leicester.

Both of them worked together in collecting, after learning the skills for identifying, collecting, and sending back to England the objects of high biologic value. Wallace spent four years traveling and mapping the unexplored parts of the Amazon Rainforest and learned about the insects and birds found there.

He did a lot of research to understand the mystery behind the origin of biodiversity there. His return journey wasn’t that smooth.

His ship sank on his way back home. He was, somehow, able to save his notes and use them to publish his scientific articles related to the uses of palm trees in Amazon and travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro. The articles were published in 1853.

The Royal Geographic Society recognized his articles. It earned him enough to fund his next trip to the ‘Malay Archipelago.’ His research about the Malay Archipelago gained him so much recognition that it further led to the formation of a boundary that differentiated the biogeography of Australia from that of Asia, called the Wallace Line.

In his lifetime, he explored South America, the Malay Archipelago, and even South East Asia and collected 125,000 specimens and 5,000 species were new to the scientific world.

But the ‘Sarawak Law’ was the first-ever evolutionary work by Alfred Russel Wallace. In this publication, he emphasized that every species coexisted with another allied species which existed before. Wallace expected the controversy to cause a stir, but it didn’t, to his surprise.

Scientific Work: Alfred Russel

Alfred Russel Wallace helped Charles Darwin develop his famous ‘Theory of Evolution.’ Although Darwin took the majority of the credit, Wallace did not heed it as he always saw Darwin as his hero.

While working in Indonesia, Wallace realized how the species evolved and how the fittest individuals survived, passing these superior features to their offspring. He immediately knew whom to contact about the same, Charles Darwin.

Darwin was working on his ‘The Origin of Species’ for 20 years and was yet to publish. When Darwin published his theory, there was no name of Wallace mentioned anywhere.

Ever since Wallace gets overshadowed by Darwin whenever the theory of evolution is discussed. Wallace showed no resentment that his ideas were taken and wasn’t credited for the same.

Darwin has reached the same conclusion as Wallace years ago but didn’t do anything. But when he received Wallace’s letter, he was instigated to act. But both of them jointly presented the paper in 1858 and shook humankind as their beliefs of origin were immensely inspired by religion.

Both Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin reached the same conclusion, but the road to the discovery differed. Darwin was of the view that this theory revolves around the concept of natural selection. But Wallace did not feel the same. Instead, he believed it was the complexities that formed the human brain that was the major contributors.

This idea was the fundamental difference between Darwin’s and Wallace’s understanding of evolution. In comparison, Darwin believed that natural selection and sexual orientation mattered in the evolution of a species; Wallace believed that it is the species’ power and higher intelligence that becomes advantageous and gets carried on to the next generation.

It was evident that their ways parted when Wallace dropped the idea that natural selection plays a role in evolution. And this idea, therefore, became another unpopular opinion that was given by him. At this point, it was nothing new. His theories and ideas were always radical.

Wallace\u2019s work won him the Gold Medal of the Soci\u00e9t\u00e9 de G\u00e9ographie in 1870.

Death Of Alfred Russel

This man full of intellect never held a permanent position of work; hence whatever his income was, it was due to his writings. It became difficult to make ends meet with it. Darwin helped organize a government pension of £200 per annum, providing financial security that Wallace couldn’t generate even after working so hard and so many jobs.

Dying at the age of 90, Wallace had written 20 books and published over 700 articles. Even though his intellect reached the peak before he died, his accomplishments are fading from everybody’s memories today. A person of keen intelligence, involved in almost every sphere of learning, his career was straightforward.

Wallace died in 1913, and the following year his wife joined him. He was bestowed by a commemorative medal of honor posthumously at Westminster Abbey in 1915. Wallace was buried in Broadstone, England.

Wallace’s radical ideas and involvement in politics majorly contributed to his unemployment. But he wasn’t the kind to sit quietly and live the normal.

Wallace was born in the wrong era. If he were a man of today’s time, the whole world would have known him for his views and opinions. Darwin wouldn’t have been famous for ‘The Survival of The Fittest Theory’ if Wallace didn’t write the letter explaining his theory concisely.

The man behind the evolutionary ‘Origin Theory’ is now being slowly forgotten by evolution. Oh, the irony!

Wallace thought that humans turned into spirits after they died. And by the time of his death, he wrote about this and many other variegated topics such as rights, laws, and economy. This curious intellectual being has experimented with hypnosis too.

Wallace’s ideas about spiritualism lost his friends. Henry Walter Bates and Charles Darwin were so against it that the public turned hostile towards Wallace, and it further ended up damaging the scientific image that he created previously.

Another notable physicist, William Crookes, supported Wallace’s ideas. Both of them suffered massive criticism. This controversy affected Wallace’s previous work for the rest of his life.

Alfred Russel Wallace OM FRS was a naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist, and illustrator who lived in the United Kingdom. Wallace wrote many things.

Wallace spent most of his time researching the natural history and zoological geography.

Wallace collected most of its information, and Wallace’s paper had its information in detail.

Wallace spent 18 months in London after returning to the UK, living off the insurance payment for his lost collection and selling a few specimens that had been shipped back to Britain before beginning his exploration of the Rio Negro from the Indian town of Jativa on the Orinoco River basin to Micru on the Vaupés River.

Wallace embarked for the United Kingdom on the brig Helen on July 12, 1852. The ship’s cargo caught fire after 25 days at sea, forcing the crew to abandon the ship.

Wallace lost all of the specimens he had on the ship, most of which he had collected over the latter two years of his journey, which were the most intriguing.

He was only able to retain a few notes and pencil sketches. He moved in with his sister in 1862 when Wallace returned to England. There were many specimens Wallace collected. He even received the Darwin Medal.

He published the book’ island life’ in 1880. He belonged to the royal society. Wallace’s essays were outstanding. He made an evolutionary theory as Wallace sailed from place to place.

Wallace discovered many things about geographical distribution and animal life as Wallace began to go on these adventures. Wallace decided to continue traveling. He loved collecting specimens and discovering animal species. Wallace’s knowledge was vast, just like Wallace’s observation. Wallace was one of the British naturalists. Wallace thought and came up with his own theory.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created many interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Alfred Russel Wallace facts, then why not take a look at Albert Camus facts or Albert Bandura facts?

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Written by Supriya Jain

Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Supriya Jain picture

Supriya JainBachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.

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