You are here

Quammen on Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, 1862Alfred Russel Wallace, 1862

Amid the hoopla as the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species approach, it is good to be reminded of the contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace, who also formulated the idea of evolution by natural selection. "Wallace's story is complicated, heroic, and perplexing," as David Quammen writes in "The Man Who Wasn't Darwin" (published in the December 2008 issue of National Geographic). "[M]ost people who know of Alfred Russel Wallace know him only as Charles Darwin's secret sharer, the man who co-discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection but failed to get an equal share of the credit," Quammen explains.

But Wallace is worthy of attention in his own right: "Besides being one of the greatest field biologists of the 19th century, he was a man of crotchety independence and lurching enthusiasms, a restless soul never quite satisfied with the place in which he lived," Quammen adds. In addition to the article, Quammen recently discussed Wallace in a November 5, 2008, lecture at Montana State University, which is now available as a podcast. A prolific science writer, Quammen's previous work includes "Was Darwin Wrong?" (the cover story of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic — the answer was a resounding no) and The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (W. W. Norton, 2006), which Kevin Padian, president of NCSE's board of directors, described as "a fresh and original look at one of history's greatest scientists, written by one of our very best science writers."