Indefatigable Naturalists: Wallace and Darwin on the Evolutionary Trail | University of Oxford

Indefatigable Naturalists: Wallace and Darwin on the Evolutionary Trail

Professor James Costa
Event date
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19:00 - 20:00
Rewley House
1 Wellington Square
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Geoffrey Thomas Lecture Theatre

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Lectures and seminars
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Disabled access?
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Jim Costa is Executive Director, Highlands Biological Station, Highlands, NC USA and Professor of Biology, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC USA

Alfred Russel Wallace was the last of the great Victorian naturalists, and by the end of his long life in 1913 he was also one of the most famous scientists in the world, lauded by leading learned societies, British royalty and US Presidents alike. Against all odds — lacking wealth, formal education, social standing or connections — Wallace became the pre-eminent tropical naturalist of his day. He founded one entirely new discipline — evolutionary biogeography — and, with Darwin, co-founded another: evolutionary biology. Yet today Darwin's name is universally recognised, while Wallace is all but unknown. Jim Costa traces the independent development of Wallace's and Darwin's evolutionary insights, exploring the fascinating parallels, intersections and departures in their thinking.

Drawing on Wallace's 'Species Notebook' — the most important of Wallace's field notebooks kept during his southeast Asian explorations of the 1850s, Costa puts Wallace's thinking into a new light in relation to that of his more illustrious colleague. He also examines the ups and downs of Wallace's relationship with Darwin, and critically evaluates the misleading 'conspiracy theories' that Wallace was wronged by Darwin and his circle over credit for the discovery of natural selection. Tracing the arc of Wallace's reputation from meteoric rise in the 19th century to virtual eclipse in the 20th, Costa restores Wallace to his proper place in the limelight with Darwin.