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Thread: Alfred Wallace

  1. #1 Alfred Wallace 
    Forum Freshman Leukocyte's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    I've heard mixed stories over the past few years about Charles Darwin's interaction with Alfred Wallace.

    What I was originally told, and the information on Wikipedia supports this, is that while the two independently came up with the theory of natural selection and had corresponded before the publication of 'Evolution of Species', Wallace acknowledged that Darwin had been working on his ideas for a good couple of decades and decided to step back and let Darwin publish his work on his own.

    However, I saw a documentary the other night that conflicted with this view and claimed that Wallace sent Darwin his work, and Darwin wrote back AFTER publication of his ideas claiming that he didn't receive Wallace's letter until only a short time before publication. The documentary strongly suggested that Darwin was lying and had rushed through publishing his work so as not to give Wallace any credit for coming to the same conclusions.

    I'm not sure that the documentary was particularly reputable and it's a bit worrying that these things can be produced on what seems to be scarce evidence.

    Has anyone else here got anymore information on the interactions between Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin?

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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    I don't have anything conclusive to hand Leukocyte. There is no doubt that Darwin realised he would have to act promptly to secure recognition for the theory. It seems almost incidental as to details and timings of Origin. What cannot be challenged is that Darwin had the idea first and in much greater detail than Wallace.

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  4. #3  
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    Feb 2007
    Karolinska Institutet Stockholm
    On the top of my head, but after Peter Bowler's "Evolution, the History of and Idea", Russel worked out something very similar to Darwin's mechanism of natural selection. In 1858 he sent an article about it for publication to Huxley, as the editor of some scientific journal (the name escapes me at the mo). Huxley alerted Darwin, since he'd known for years what Darwin was working on. And Huxley then worked out a deal by which Russel and Darwin jointly published an article in 1858.

    Darwin then ditched the huge book "Natural Selection" he had already half-finished, and sat down and wrote "Origin of Species" at break-neck speed, publishing it in 1859.

    It wasn't all buddy-buddy of course. Darwin did try to downplay Russel's contribution to the theory of natural selection, but there was no real attempt to rob him. Still, Darwin had been sitting in the basic theory for almost twenty years by the time Russel turned up. Those in the know, like Huxley, were aware of that.
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