Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913)

Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist, geographer and explorer. His research includes warning colouration in animals and geographic distribution of species. Most significantly he co-discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection. But it is usually Charles Darwin who receives all the credit.

The Malay Archipelago

Wallace spent eight years (1854 to 1862) travelling around the Malay Archipelago.  This is an area including Indonesia, Singapore and New Guinea. He studied all kinds of animals that lived there. But birds and beetles were his particular passion. He is particularly well known for his descriptions of birds of paradise. During this time Wallace wrote to Charles Darwin. He outlined his ideas on evolution by natural selection. This letter drove Darwin to publish ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859.

In 1869 he published ‘The Malay Archipelago, the land of the orang-utan and the bird of paradise: a narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature’. Together with biographies and published letters this book helped curators piece together the stories behind RAMM’s specimens.

Wallace specimens at RAMM

RAMM has a small group of specimens associated with Wallace in the zoology collection. All are from his time in the Malay Archipelago. The Moluccan starling is particularly insteresting.

Colour photograph of specimens associated with Alfred Russel Wallace on a white background. Five are snail shells, six are butterflies and one is a bird.

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