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Museum reveals story of Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of Natural Selection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — November 13, 2013

Contact: jonathan.pishney@naturalsciences.org or 919.707.8083

Photograph of Alfred Russel Wallace, taken in Singapore, 1862.RALEIGH — Alfred Russel Wallace is honored today as a founder of modern biogeography and co-founder of modern evolutionary biology. Yet Wallace is often misunderstood or misrepresented as a mere collector and accidental evolutionist who stumbled upon natural selection in a malarial fever. The reality is far more interesting, as James Costa will show in his presentation “Alfred Russel Wallace on the Evolutionary Trail,” at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Wednesday, November 20 at 7pm. Free.

Costa — Executive Director of Highlands Biological Station and Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University — is author of “On the Organic Law of Change,” an annotated and elegant edition of the “Species Notebook” of 1855–1859, which Wallace kept during his legendary expedition in peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia and western New Guinea. This never-before-published document provides a new window into the personal trials and scientific genius of Wallace, who spent much of this time searching for birds-of-paradise, discovering one species that bears his name today – Wallace’s standardwing bird-of-paradise.

Prior to the presentation, visit the Museum’s special exhibition, “Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution.” Found only in New Guinea and parts of Australia, birds-of-paradise are a case study in the power of evolution. Their fantastic plumes and bizarre courtship displays are a result of millions of years of sexual selection at work in an environment with plentiful food and no natural predators. Co-developed by the National Geographic Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the exhibition highlights fascinating stories of groundbreaking research and adventure paired with amazing footage and photography. Last entry at 6:30pm. Tickets: Free for Members; $6 for Adults; $4 for Children (3-12); $5 for Students, Seniors (65+) and Military; Available onsite at the Museum Box Office and online via naturalsciences.org.

Arrive early (6pm) for a speaker reception and Student Poster Presentations on evolution and biodiversity, plus light refreshments.


The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St. and 121 W. Jones St.) in downtown Raleigh, is the state's most visited cultural attraction. It is an active research institution that engages visitors of every age and stage of learning in the wonders of science and the natural world, drawing them into the intriguing fields of study that are critical to the future of North Carolina. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun., noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit the Museum on the web at www.naturalsciences.org. Emlyn Koster, PhD, Director; John E. Skvarla III, Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Pat McCrory, Governor.

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, November 13, 2013