Science Cafe: The Other Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace and the Origin of Species
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 British royalty and US Presidents alike. Against all odds — lacking wealth, formal education, social standing or connections — Wallace became the pre-eminent tropical explorer 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 a household word, while Wallace is all but unknown. Join us to learn about Wallace's life, from his meteoric rise in the 19th century to his virtual eclipse in the 20th. We’ll learn about the ups and downs of Wallace's relationship with Darwin, and critically evaluate the persistent 'conspiracy theories' that Wallace was wronged by Darwin and his circle over credit for the discovery of natural selection.
About our Speaker
Jim Costa is Executive Director of the Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, NC, and Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. His research ranges from insect social behavior to the history of evolutionary thinking. As a recent fellow-in-residence at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Germany, Jim completed two books on the remarkable naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. On the Organic Law of Change (Harvard, 2013) is an annotated transcription of the most important field notebook kept by Wallace during his explorations in southeast Asia, providing new insights into the development of Wallace's evolutionary thinking in the 1850s. In the companion volume Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (Harvard, 2014) Jim analyzes Wallace's ideas and arguments about evolution in the notebook period in comparison with those of Darwin, and examines the relationship between these two giants of evolutionary biology.