Eight Extraordinary Years of Scientific Travel: Alfred Russel Wallace's Malay Archipelago

Thank you very much, Diana [APPLAUSE] And what a pleasure it is to be here I think it’s a beautiful afternoon You’ve really– this is a heroic sacrifice on your part The good news is what we’re going to be talking about is Alfred Russel Wallace exploring the wet tropics, sweaty, dank, somewhat fetid So by the time we actually get there in this talk, I suspect this crowd will have engendered exactly the right atmosphere in this room Alfred Russel Wallace, as I’m sure most of you know, was the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of what– it’s the best idea anyone’s ever had, evolution by natural selection Call me biased, I’m an evolutionary biologist, after all, but what’s as good? Maybe the bicycle [LAUGHTER] That’s second place It’s a brilliant idea because it’s super simple There’s this lovely reaction of Thomas Henry Huxley– This is “Darwin’s bulldog”– after reading The Origin of Species He had a Homer Simpson moment Duh “How incredibly stupid of me,” he wrote, “not to have thought of that.” I mean, this is not difficult And yet it explains so stupendously much, including all of biological diversity And I’m using obviously– one always uses sea slugs as emblems of biological diversity, because they’re so ridiculous I mean they’re just fantastic We’ve explained biological diversity, where it came from, through this diversifying genealogical process And we’ve explained how that diversity fits so perfectly with its environment How the bill of the hummingbird is perfectly built to probe the depths of the flower, to recover nectar and pollen from it That’s adaptation, folks And that’s natural selection That’s two pretty big things to explain But the third one is us We are the product of this process Yes, you can be a philosopher and worry about mind Mind is an emanation of brain, and brain is something that was produced through natural selection on the plains of Africa, a few hundred thousand years ago We cannot understand who we are, what we are, where we come from, without that, exactly, without taking into consideration evolutionary phenomenon And this theory as you know was co-discovered Here is the cover of the journal in which it was originally published This is The Linnean Society from 1858 It’s not that blue normally, it’s been enhanced And there’s a lot of really boring stuff in this issue, “On Some Points in the Anatomy of Nautilus Pompilius.” This is the biggie, though “On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection,” by Charles Darwin and Alfred R Wallace And I’m here to talk about Alfred R Wallace, someone who has been almost completely eclipsed by his co-author Google evolution Do you see those probing, bespectacled eyes of Wallace peering out at you? No, you see that lugubrious, overhung brow, Charles Darwin So to what extent has that happened? Well, the obvious metric in this day and age is to go to Wikipedia This is data on the number of times the Alfred Russel Wallace page on Wikipedia has been viewed in the last 90 days Grand total of 62– that’s pretty respectable, 62,000 I thought of putting up by Wikipedia page’s comparison but then decided not to [LAUGHTER] So obviously there was a data collection failure here, or for some reason everyone really wasn’t interested in Wallace on that day The other thing that I think is very interesting, people are interested in Wallace mid week [LAUGHTER] And I’m also curious about this So he’s sort of averaging about 700 hits a day And then he goes up, he doubles on that one day But let’s remember that figure And by the way, oh, the other thing is this is a problem This is 1800 max, because I’m about to show you a graph with a very different scale This is Darwin We’ve now gone up to 18,000 So actually, it looks kind of similar,

except everything’s 10 times bigger So he’s had nearly half a million hits in the last 90 days So there’s almost an order of magnitude difference there And look– [LAUGHTER] Well, so I did wonder So the first thing is, what date is that So we’ve gone back to Wallace So this was the 3rd of September And there’s no big anniversary or sometimes It’s not Darwin’s birthday or Wallace’s I mean, there’s no sort of obvious– and well, let’s see if it’s the same So here’s 3rd of September So I had to do– actually, I think this is actually somewhat sociologically interesting It’s not related to what we’re talking about at all [LAUGHTER] But I dug into a Facebook archive And I remembered that about that time, literally, the first couple of days of September, my Facebook account was being bombarded by well-meaning people, pointing me to a fascinating article, a great new insight, about the relationship of Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin And I suspect this is what’s responsible Here is the article in question It was published, as you can see, on the 31st of August So I think we’ve got a little bit of latency for it to pick up Yes, this is about– that’s a great quotation “What at first united us was our love of science and knowledge But our mutual respect for each other’s high intellectual capacities slowly let us to be drawn to each other, in a way we both had never experienced before.” So I suspect this is what drove that trend And I suspect that there you can see there are 954 Facebook shares, of which at least 930 came my way I think that was the viral moment for these gentleman in September So here’s the summary This is the 90-day figures I’ve just shown you So as I say, you get an order of magnitude, give or take And it more or less holds true in viral moments, as well So one of the questions, for those of us who know and love Wallace– and Wallace is fascinating and brilliant and so much more charismatic than Darwin I can say that, because I know Janet Brown, who’s the great Darwin scholar And I teach a course with her, so we get on most of the time, she’s out of town this weekend [LAUGHTER] What happened? Why has Wallace, the great and wonderful and interesting Wallace, been so comprehensively eclipsed? Now that is not the subject of this talk But it’s always a subtext, if you like, when you’re talking about Wallace And it brings us to this I’m going to rather maybe pompously claim that this is as close as we have, the Penguin Classics, to some notion of modern canon So these are all books we take very seriously– well, they’re not all books we– Caesar, Chaucer, Dante, Dante, Dante, of course, Dickens, Euripides I mean those black spines speak to something They don’t always I thought this was a bit unfortunate, actually This was a big coup, apparently, for Penguin Classics last year Morrissey, for those of you don’t know, Morrissey was the lead singer of The Smiths, a brilliant ’80s band God knows what he’s doing here But– [LAUGHTER] [MUSIC – THE SMITHS] He certainly had his moments So let’s see how Wallace and Darwin are doing on the Penguin Classics metric Well, obviously, Origin of Species, weird cover, Penguin Classics, I have to say This is Darwin, The Descent of Man, I’m on board with that There’s more That’s the one nobody’s read, but everyone’s vaguely familiar with the pictures of the uncomfortable people having weird expressions, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals There’s clearly one missing here, yes, The Voyage of the Beagle sails across the screen So we’ve already got four And there is, in fact, a fifth, Darwin’s rather slim autobiography And there he is, looking lugubrious Let’s see how Alfred Russel Wallace does Nothing, which is deeply unjust Well nothing, I say, until today Though it’s not actually quite published, at least in this country But this is Penguin Classics first venture into Wallace territory [APPLAUSE] Whoo! There it is, and much better cover

than any of the Darwin ones, I have to say And this is what I’m going to be talking about today This is Wallace’s equivalent, if you like, of The Voyage of the Beagle Darwin was at sea on the Beagle– he wasn’t at sea, actually He spent a grand total of 18 months at sea on the five-year voyage of the Beagle, because he was seasick the whole time So he spent as much time as he possibly could on land, not unreasonably, under the circumstances Wallace was eight years exploring between Singapore– in fact, a little bit further up peninsula, Malaysia, all the way into Western New Guinea And this is the book that resulted And it’s a brilliant and beautiful and compelling scientific travelogue Read that side by side with the much more fabled and better known Voyage of the Beagle, and you’re sleeping on one side of your face, the Beagle side of your face And you’re alert and excited on the other side of your face That’s by way of introduction I have one other thing to say in the way of introduction Here we are at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which of course was built around Louis Agassiz’ great museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, over our heads– or sort of that way and over our heads And there’s a great Wallace link with this wonderful institution Darwin never visited Agassiz died– the great irony of this institution, it was founded in 1859, the year The Origin of Species came out, by Louis Agassiz, who was a die-hard creationist This museum was built as a monument to divine design, to divine intervention in creation He died by the time Alfred Russel Wallace came here Darwin had died Wallace came here in the mid 1860s And he toured this museum, he was on a lecture tour of the United States, he was giving the Lowell Lectures here in Boston to start with He toured this museum And he absolutely loved it And he wrote this lovely essay, in which he extols its virtue And he publishes some photographs in that essay, in which you can identify the galleries and some of the specimens, which are still on display It’s actually fantastic And he writes, “It is surely an anomaly that the naturalist who was most opposed to the theory of evolution should be the first inadvertently to arrange his museum in such a way as best to illustrate that theory While in the land of Darwin–” this is his side swipe at the Natural History Museum in London– “no step has been taken to escape from the monotonous routine of one great systematic series of crowded specimens arranged in lofty halls and palatial galleries, which may excite wonder but which are calculated to teach no definite lesson.” So as I say, he loved this place And he wrote this lovely essay And part of it was a tribute to something I feel I came here– I’m an alien, I came here from Britain He loved the fact that Americans weren’t stuck in their rut The British were still doing the small c, conservative, doing their boring thing Americans had this can-do, we can change things That’s what he loved And that’s what that essay is about, even if it was, as I say, a bit of a side swipe to poor old Agassiz spinning in his grave So we have this connection What I’m going to talk about today is Wallace I’m going to focus on his Malay Archipelago years And I’m going to talk about where the book came from, and how it fared, so to speak So I’ve got four broad topics One thing I am going to do, it’s going to be a little bit daunting, I’m going to put up fairly frequently big slabs of Wallace’s prose And I’ll read it out And you can read it, if you don’t like listening to me or whatever It’s not great PowerPoint protocol to give huge slabs of prose But it’s such beautiful stuff And he wrote it so well, that please forgive me You will forgive me We’re going to start pre-Malay Archipelago He was significantly younger than Darwin, 14 years younger to be precise He was born in 1823, into sort of genteel, declining, middle-class poverty His father was actually a lawyer, never managed to hold down a job He inherited an income which he invested badly away They just kept getting poorer and poorer So Alfred was born– and this is the 19th century, so they’re all breeding like nobody’s business, because there’s a high rate of turnover in those offspring So he’s born there in a place where living was as cheap as possible And it’s not that grim, actually This is the house he was born in, as it is today It’s a private residence, been done up rather nicely,

actually, in the town of Usk, which as you can see is quite scenic to this day Here is the church in which he was christened And it actually reveals the origin of a mystery Alfred Russel Wallace has only one “l” in his Russel And it catches out everyone on Google searches, because Russell has two “l”s on the end Well, he had two “l”s on his Russel when he was baptized So god know what happened to his second “l.” [LAUGHTER] Evolution He evolved or devolved He was barely educated, no money They’d moved back to England He left school at the age of 13, in order to earn a living Most of what he did was working with his brother as a surveyor This is an era when the first railways are going in, so there’s money in surveying, laying out the tracks for future development So here is a young Alfred Russel Wallace He’s tromping across the fields with a surveying pole in hand He becomes interested in natural history, in the flowers that he’s seeing and so on So this is a very uneducated, very amateurish interest in natural history, in plants, initially But then he meets a man called Henry Walter Bates, who’s actually a couple of years younger than him He meets him– so Wallace is 21, Bates is 19 And Bates is similar He’s also, basically, an autodidact He’s also interested in natural history But he’s way more sophisticated than our Alfred He has an interest in beetles And he converts Wallace almost overnight into a beetle person If I’d been asked before how many different kinds of beetles would be found in any small district, I should probably have guessed 50, or the outside of 100 I’d have thought that a very liberal allowance I learnt there were many hundreds could easily be collected And there were probably 1,000 different kinds, within 10 miles of– and for those of you who know it– Lester, anything within 10 miles of Lester is remarkable And I’ve argued in a couple of places that I think the beetle thing was absolutely critical in the development of Wallace’s, and in, fact Darwin’s thinking, and Bates This is a lovely quotation for all a famous 20th century biologist called JBS Haldane When asked what has a lifetime of studying nature taught you about the creator, he responded, “the Almighty clearly has an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Because there are so many of them There’s about 350,000 species of beetles that we’ve hither to described There are plenty more out there, folks And if you want to call them something, whatever the generic name, Andrew Berryi– any undergraduates here? We’re looking at an A And just to put that into comparison, you think of birds as hyper diverse, right? Blue ones, flitting through the forest, and a green one flying high there And a red one singing No, there’s just 10,000 of them It’s kind of pathetic And by the way, we’ve probably done most of the birds We haven’t come close to describing all the beetles So this is a massive underestimate This is pretty on the money And by the way, in Britain, this was why they were key in Britain Britain, if you’ve ever been there, is a windswept, biologically depopulated place Miserable, blighted Imagine you were interested in butterflies 65 species And a couple of those are ones which occasionally get blown over from France They don’t even truly resident Whereas you’ve actually got a respectable level of diversity in beetles So if you’re going to be interested in exploring the patterns and causes of diversity, you need some diversity And beetles provided that for these guys They also provided– because it’s such a big broad opportunity, scientifically, it gave them, if you like, a professional leg up When Wallace met Bates, Bates had already published a scientific paper He had gone beyond being just a casual amateur He was a scientist, if you like And this is, again, the good old days The paper was “Note on Coleopterous Insects Frequenting Damp Places.” “Many a long day, in sunshine and in shower, has seen me wading in those miry paradises, in the praiseworthy endeavor to effect my little towards the advancement of our favorite science.” Wallace followed up, he’s a little bit later This is the entirety of his first publication Pathetic What he’s done is he’s found a beetle And then the editor says, “the other insects in my correspondent’s list are scarcely worth publishing.” Loser But still, a publication, ladies and gentlemen, is a publication As they say, interview committees can count, they can’t read

[LAUGHTER] And of course, you know this, I’m sure This is this wonderful cartoon of the young Charles Darwin, doing what he loved to do– hunting beetles There is Darwin, “Go it Charlie,” riding his beetle So that’s one strand in the development of Wallace’s thinking The other is what you might call theoretical He read a book, which was published anonymously in 1844 We now know it was by the encyclopedist Robert Chambers, entitled The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation And this was bad science But it was a book which had this sort of progressive vision of things we would say evolving, now, changing from simple into complex And that applied to culture It applied to animals, plants, to the universe Now this essay, this is not a great piece of science But it was a best seller Abe Lincoln read it The young Queen Victoria had it read out to her by her young husband, Prince Albert I’ve tried reading this I’ve never made my way through it Have you, David? Not even David Haig has managed to read this It’s unreadable And the notion of having it read to you in a heavy German accent just before bedtime is– [LAUGHTER] But Wallace, Wallace was turned on He liked this idea of what was then sometimes called transmutation, that species weren’t fixed, that they could change, one into another This is an ingenious hypothesis, strongly supported by some striking facts and analogies So we– Bates and Wallace– are going to go on a scientific adventure We’re going to go and do science, in order to explore this question They’re nobodies They’re not like– Darwin was connected It was a sort of privileged position to go on the Beagle They don’t have any of those connections So they’re going to have to pay their own way So what they’re going to do is collect specimens for sale, to fund their scientific enterprise Where are they going to go? Well, this shows you just how naive they were They read a book by an American lepidopterist– published in 1947– Mr Edwards, who’d been up the Amazon, in which he described the primary rain forest “Monkeys are frolicking through festooned bowers, or chasing in revelry over the wooden arches Squirrels scamper in ecstasy from limb to limb, unable to contain themselves for joyousness.” I mean, if I read that, I didn’t know any better, the allure of exploding, ecstatic squirrels is– [LAUGHTER] So off our boys go They go to– this is actually a figure from Bates’s book about the trip They go to the Amazon, they go to Brazil They’re looking for these high profile specimens, in particular This is a cock-of-the-rock, this is an umbrella bird These get good money on the natural history– they have an agent in London– good money on the natural history markets They can sell these things They split up fairly early on, presumably to maximize the efficiency of what they’re collecting and where Wallace spends four years mainly up the Rio Negro, extraordinary journeys Nearly dies several times His younger brother comes out to help and does die First contact with native peoples, extraordinary animals and material that he’s acquiring But it nearly kills him And after four years– and by the way, Bates stays out for another seven years– it’s time to come home So this is 1852 He’s come across the continent, all the way down river And he’s got all this stuff, this fantastic stuff He’s a nobody, remember This is going to make him And he’s even brought 30-odd living animals– spider monkey, toucan Just imagine, he’s a nobody, walking into a scientific salon in mid Victorian Britain with a toucan, with that fantastic bill, on your arm This is going to be the making of him Here’s the good ship Helen Three weeks into the journey, there is– I love this part of the story [KNOCKING] There’s a knock on the door of the cabin This is a freighter, he’s the only passenger He’s sharing a cabin with the captain The captain knocks on the door, he says, Mr. Wallace, I think you should know, the ship’s on fire First big mistake was the oh, I wonder what’s happening So they open the hatch This is poorly stowed cargo, which was highly flammable, and just presumably friction had caused it to– and so they’d just oxygenated the fire This is a pile of tropical, sun dried tinder

They have to abandon ship instantly Wallace, in fact, is weak and in such a hurry to get off the ship that he rips the skin off his hands The clinker hulls of the lifeboats have been upside down on the surface of the deck, so they’re dried out So they are basically sieves So now they’re bailing to save their lives They’re not going to do that all night, because the timbers are going to swell as the water comes in But this vision of Wallace, with his flayed hands desperately scooping salt water out of the bottom of his boat It’s not going well What are they going to do? The weather is fine What they’re going to do is stay by the wreck, the burning pyre, in the hope of rescue So Wallace– and I think this is most poignant episode in the history of science– Wallace witnesses the destruction of his collections The living animals, remember, there are 30-odd of them, they are sprung by the flames from their cages They go out, he sees them And he writes about this, going out to the bowsprit There’s no way to go, infinite ocean They go back into the flames But surely they’re going to be rescued No 10 days adrift in an open boat But Wallace is British, remember And I love this part of the story So this has happened [LAUGHTER] We got rid of that, we’re in the open boat Wallace is British, so what happens? Well as he writes– this was, I think, three days into the 10 days, he doesn’t know if he’s going to be rescued– “During the night I saw several meteors, and in fact could not be in a better position for observing them than lying on my back in a small boat in the middle of the Atlantic.” [LAUGHTER] That’s putting a positive spin on things Anyway, so he gets home And “Fifty times since I left Belem have I vowed, if I once reached England, never to trust myself more on the ocean.” Not an unreasonable response But he basically writes that, turns around, and where does he go? If he’s going to do it, if he’s going to make it, if he’s going to become– he’s got nothing He’s got to do it all over again So that’s what he does And by the way, I just– hats off I mean, I don’t know about you And I don’t want to offend any accountants here But if that had happened to me, I’d say, OK, I think I’ve done enough of expeditionary science I’ll become an accountant or something So now, this is our focal journey This is the Malay Archipelago journey One of the things he did manage to salvage, rather remarkably– because he just had a small box of drawings and notes that he managed to rescue from the burning wreck– were his notes for the mapping of the Rio Negro And he published this map with the Royal Geographic Society in London He also pumped out a book on the palm trees of the Amazon and wrote a book on his travels on the Amazon, which we will return to shortly It was his attempt to be a Voyage of the Beagle type book This is important, because it came to the attention of the powers that be in the Royal Geographic Society They were impressed by this loser And they made it their business to help him go to his next place He needed money It’s expensive to get to Southeast Asia So he was actually sponsored by the government and sailed to Singapore So he came back in 1852 from the Amazon And as I say, just 18 months later, in March 1854 he’s heading off again This is Singapore, where he started And this, by the way, is the map from the book A beautiful Victorian map, which bloody Penguin refused to reproduce And the dark lines are his journeys This is an extraordinary set of journeys, usually in small boats And all the time– and this is inconceivable– he was collecting, collecting, collecting, 125,000 specimens Thousands and thousands, new to science Today when you collect something, fine, I’ve got it You put it in liquid nitrogen or whatever And you call up FedEx, and they take it back He’s dragging it around He can only ship stuff very episodically, from a few quote “centers of civilization.” Extraordinary journeys in extraordinary places As I said, last time, he was particularly keen on the cock-of-the-rock and the umbrella bird This time, the headline is– and again, this is both because they’re biologically fantastic, also because they’re commercially valuable– the birds of paradise And just to remind you, birds of paradise are ridiculous [MUSIC PLAYING] Success

[LAUGHTER] So it was worth it, is the point Now he essentially has to go native He’s basically backpacking Darwin, when he’s on the voyage of the Beagle is the guest of the captain When he lands, the local hacienda sends a coach and four to take him on a nice tour This is actually a rather nice reconstruction of one of Wallace’s huts Wallace, remember, was a surveyor He was very anal about keeping records So we know what he was living in, in each of these places And here’s the picture of the same hut And you can’t see it very well This is from the Malay Archipelago There’s Wallace The hut was too small for him to actually sit down in So he’s doing all his work at a table on the stilts under the hut He’s dependent upon this kind of transport And the cooperation, I guess, of kids like this But a lot of very dodgy, small open boat travel Which– being Wallace, this is actually from his autobiography It’s amazing Some of the stuff that he did would put Mark Spitz’s hair– or whatever the new pothead is called– to stand on end Phelps He could barely swim This was partly due to a physical deficiency, which I was unable to overcome My legs are unusually long for my height, and the bones are unusually large The result is that they persistently sink in the water, bringing me to a near vertical position And their weight renders it almost impossible to keep my mouth above water [LAUGHTER] Now he’s collecting, collecting, collecting And this is– and again, it’s inconceivable to us as modern day collectors– the tribulations he had to put up with “The flies that troubled me most in New Guinea were a large kind of blue-bottle These settled in swarms on my bird skins when first put out to dry, filling their plumage with masses of eggs, which, if neglected, the next day produced maggots They would get under the wings or under the body, where it rested on the drying-board, sometimes actually raising it up half an inch by the mass of eggs deposited in a few hours And every egg was so firmly glued to the fibers of the feathers, as to make it a work of much time and patience to get rid of them without injuring the bird.” So that’s– collecting And the accounts in the Malay Archipelago of the feral dogs that would just come and just snaffle his entire set of specimens The ants that would just slowly degrade his material Appalling And his personal situation, obviously, was appalling as well But get a sense of this writing It’s wonderfully, slightly tongue-in-cheek “Ever since leaving Dobbo on the Aru Islands, I had suffered terribly from insects, who seemed here bent upon revenging my long-continued persecution of their race.” I just love that “At our first stopping place, sand flies were very abundant at night.” “My feet and ankles especially suffered, and were completely covered with little red, swollen specks, which tormented me horribly Arriving here, we were delighted to find the house free from sand flies or mosquitoes But in the plantations, where my daily walks led me, the day-biting mosquitoes swarmed and seemed especially to delight in attacking my poor feet.” [LAUGHTER] You may well laugh “After a month’s incessant punishment, these useful members–” his feet– “rebelled against such treatment, and broke into open insurrection, throwing out numerous inflamed ulcers, which were very painful and stopped me from walking So I found myself confined to the house, with no immediate prospect of leaving it Wounds or sores in the feet are especially difficult to heal in hot climates And I therefore dreaded them more than any other illness.” But the stuff he was encountering was magical This is a species of birdwing butterfly, which Wallace discovered and described and named It’s now called Trogonoptera brookiana, in honor of his rather extraordinary friend, James Brooke, the so-called “White Rajah” of Sarawak, in North Borneo But perhaps one of the coolest things he found– [BIRDS CALLING] –was the new, previously undiscovered species of bird-of-paradise This is Wallace’s standardwing bird-of-paradise Not on New Guinea, on a couple of offline islands You can see they’re displaying here They really are fantastically silly birds But look at them They’re just amazing There’s the female, checking the boys out Oh, go for it, man! So he’s schlepping all this stuff around

He’s having to stay alive, himself He’s having to combat all these things, which are trying to rip all his specimens apart The other problem is how do you know what’s what? You can’t go online and good google hornbills of Southeast Asia and get a nice list, with a dichotomous key, which will tell you who’s who So he had actually this wonderful Latin tome on the birds of the world that he dragged around with him So it’s hardly surprising He writes, “the collector at home or abroad, what he really requires is to have a compact and cheap volume, by which he can name, if not all, at least well-marked species.” Give me a field guide, man, is what he’s saying He’s just invented the field guide, actually So he’s doing this in extraordinarily adverse circumstances He was stunningly successful Here’s that same bird-of-paradise This is a paper he published shortly after getting back, “Descriptions of New Birds from the Malay Archipelago.” Now some of these, by the way, have since been synonomized So this is a bit of an exaggeration But it gives you a good sense of what he achieved “212 new bird species collected by me in those eight years.” Now just to put that in perspective, finding new bird species is tricky If I was telling you– we could find a new microbe species on my person, right now And if I told you to go and find a weevil from somewhere, as long as you can climb tropical trees, you could find a new species of weevil Finding new species of birds, even then, was– that’s a high bar Because people care about birds People notice birds People record birds So one is, this is hard And two, given the fact that we have about 10,000 birds that we’ve described, that’s 2% of all birds he discovered in eight years That’s phenomenal Especially when you consider the conditions he was doing that in And part of what he was doing– so he’s down here He was very interested in what was where Bio-geography is the science of what is there And he discovered the discontinuity between orange Australia and pink Asia He didn’t call it, TH Huxley called it, this is Wallace’s Line So a brilliant field naturalist He crossed between Bali and Lombok down here and noticed that some of the birds he’d seen there weren’t there But that’s just collecting Obviously, that sort of headlining stuff that he was doing was what we might call theoretical thinking And he had two great theoretical papers So this is his discovery of evolution by natural selection It came in two phases The first paper he wrote, as a guest of the White Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke The base of this mountain, Santubong Mountain It’s known as the “Sarawak Law” paper from 1855 Very simple idea But brilliantly expressed and powerful Every species”– this is a quotation– “has come into existence coincident both in time and space with a preexisting closely allied species.” What does that mean? Well things cluster geographically If I find a kangaroo, where do I go and find another kangaroo? I stay in Australia I don’t go to Norway to find it [LAUGHTER] People don’t like Norway here Why is that? Because you have an ancestral species of kangaroo, which spins off descendant species of kangaroo In other words, that clustering is the product of a genealogical process Same in time If I find a certain dinosaur in that stratum in the fossil record, where do I look for similar dinosaurs? Do I go much more recent? Do I go much more ancient? No, I look in contiguous strata, right? Why? Because you’ve got the same ancestor descendant process He sends this off Remember, he’s still a nobody This is going to stir them up This is halfway to a theory of evolution He’s incredibly disappointed Nobody cares, nobody notices One person is sympathetic Charles Darwin writes to him He says, yeah, people aren’t interested in these big picture questions And that’s why the next time Wallace had a smart idea instead of sending it to a journal to publish straight off, he sent it to Charles Darwin Darwin would place it This is the second part of the theory of evolution by natural selection, “Natural Selection.” He had malaria He’s in the Spice Islands He’s feverish He glimpses natural selection Soon as he’s well enough, he writes it down and sends that manuscript off to Charles Darwin This is the luckiest thing that ever happened to Charles Darwin Because normally everything he’s done is sent straight to an editor, to a journal It’s reviewed, published, just as it is today And if he’d done that this time, Darwin would have woken up

three months later scooped So here we are, Down House, a rather charming, contemporary print So this is Down House, where Darwin lives You probably know this story, but it bears repeating Here’s Darwin’s study And here is a completely bogus reconstruction of Darwin reading his mail This is the 18th of June, 1858 And he’s got people, it turns out to be a spectator sport [LAUGHTER] These are his colleagues Oh, I wonder what he’s reading now Well, so he gets this letter from this person he barely knows And he recognizes it is his own theory So all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed What happens? Well, Charles Lyell, the geologist who was Charles Darwin’s friend and colleague and also Joseph Hooker the botanist intervene They save the day They arrange for a joint publication They haven’t consulted Wallace But they’re going to put out a joint publication These are my students, I took to the Linnean Society I’m sorry to say they’re a little disrespectful Little bastards [LAUGHTER] Just so you know, you were one of them once, yes This was the 1st of July So this is the publication, “The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.” Here’s the original paper There it is, Darwin Wallace is now second author, notice But it’s out Everything bad is going wrong Everything is going wrong for the main players Darwin’s not there because his baby’s just died What’s Wallace doing? Wallace, of course, doesn’t know what’s happening He’s finally made it to New Guinea He’s miles away But he’s always– this is where he’s been aiming to get to the whole time But it’s all gone belly up “I got over this fever but followed by such soreness that I could put nothing but solid between my lips.” He’s obliged to subsist entirely on slops His men got sick One of them died This is right in that period, that two-week period, between the letter arriving and the publication So everything’s gone belly up But how does Wallace respond to this? I, if I sent a manuscript to a senior colleague and then heard back that I was second author on a paper published by that senior colleague, I would be irked [LAUGHTER] Not Wallace And remember the situation He’s a nobody, Darwin’s big Darwin’s famous, Darwin’s a somebody This is– and I love this letter It’s to his mother “Dear Mummy You’re not going to believe this I’ve just got these letters– This assures me the acquaintance and assistance of these eminent men on my return home.” He’s made it, finally And what does Darwin do? Darwin knuckles down And within about a year, he’s pumped out The Origin of Species The Origin of Species, I think, mentions Wallace by name four times It’s not– and it’s an I book, it’s not a we book Does Wallace object? And by the way, Wallace had his own origin project We know this from his notebooks At the time, he was planning on writing his own book about evolution He nixed it when he heard that Darwin was doing this Is he resentful? Hell no “Mr. Darwin has given the world a new science, and his name should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modern times The force of admiration–” the force of admiration! “–can no further go.” OK So he’s still out there He comes back three years after the publication of The Origin of Species He comes back in 1862 And he’s successful, fated Nothing gets incinerated on the journey home this time And so, within a couple of years, he writes to Darwin They’re now friends I’m going to start writing this book I hope to have it ready by Christmas It’s not going to happen there He’s super, super busy He’s turning his collections into scientific publications, if you like He’s all over the place, scientifically And by the way, just to give you an example of what he was doing, this is a famous idea in evolutionary biology And it’s usually associated– what is a species? A species is something that can have sex with a fellow member of that species and reproduce That’s what we call a species It’s known as the biological species concept And it’s most closely associated with a famous Harvard biologist, Ernst Meyer There it is And high-schoolers learn this definition I force it down the throats of my students Turns out that Wallace had come up with that definition in 1864, a mere 80 years earlier “Species are merely those strongly marked races or local forms which when in contact do not intermix, and when inhabiting distinct areas are generally believed to have had separate origins, and to be incapable of producing fertile offspring.”

Same, same deal He’s doing a hell of a lot of science He gets married in 1866 This is all he has to say in his two-volume autobiography about his wife, which seems– he even gets her age wrong, by the way But anyway, he’d got on all right with her dad And by the way, it was a lovely and rich– I love this This is obviously a very late photograph It was a great relationship So he’s busy, that’s one thing holding him back But there are other things holding him back with this book project One of which is the decided failure of his previous attempt So I said that in that short period that he was back in Britain, between the burning boat and heading out to Singapore, he wrote his, if you like, Voyage of the Beagle, or attempted voyage of the Beagle, Scientific Travelogue from the Amazon Here is a copy, 1853, my proudest possession A first edition of this baby Now for a start, this was not a well-received book And I think this is one of the meanest things that Darwin ever wrote So remember, this book is hugely handicapped Everything has been incinerated He’s desperately trying to cobble things together from memory And Darwin writes to HW Bates “that I’m a little disappointed in Wallace’s book on the Amazon Hardly facts enough.” Oh thanks, thanks for your support And Wallace recalled only 750 copies were printed That was in 1853 And when he came back nine years later, only 500 had sold So this was not exactly haring off the shelves So he’s got a sort of inferiority complex about his ability as a travel writer And that is enhanced by a book that comes out in 1863, so exactly the same time frame This is Bates’s book about his Amazon experience So part of it’s shared with Wallace, but it’s mainly Bates’s own independent adventures This does really well And now, so there’s this sort of competitive thing Wallace writes to Darwin, “I’m a very bad hand at writing anything like narrative I want something to argue on And then I find it much easier to go ahead I’d rather despair, therefore, of making so good a book as Bates’s–” There’s the competitive thing “Though I think my subject is better Like every other traveller, I suppose, I feel dreadfully the want of copious notes on common, everyday objects, sights and sounds and incidents, which I imagined I could never forget but which I now find it’s impossible to recall with any accuracy.” So there are all these things sort of holding him back But finally, now that he’s been back for six years, he writes to Darwin “You’ll perhaps be glad to hear that I have been for some time hammering away at my travels But I fear I shall make a mess of it.” So he did have copious notes And we still have many of those It’s actually really cool He took these beautiful, longhand notes in the field And many of the most immediate and exciting passages of the book are pretty much transcribed directly from his first-hand accounts He gets back to camp and writes it all down It ends up in the book He’s also commissioning artwork, needless to say And this is a fantastic rendition of this extraordinary temporary encampment, seasonal encampment, in Dobbo, in the Aru Islands off Western New Guinea So this was a professional artist who drew it from Wallace’s sketches So the book comes out in March 1869, with some of these lovely, gorgeous illustrations It’s initially two volumes It’s fairly rapidly condensed into a single one And there’s this lovely dedication “To Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species, I dedicate this book, not only as a token of personal esteem and friendship, but also to express my deep admiration for his genius and his works.” Now, how did you write, what did he do, how did he manufacture this book? What were the writerly challenges? Well, the first thing is his journeys, you saw from that map, was super complex Many places he went to multiple time So that was very convoluted So he figured that a straight chronological telling would be disastrous Because, oh, and then I came back here again Remember, on page 27 I was there, and so on and so forth So he tried to try to condense multiple journeys into one narrative in each case And in general, he’s extremely successful The way he handles that is by, if you like, focusing on vignettes And he’s a master storyteller

And he can create these wonderful sort of pin pictures This is brilliant He’s in a village, way up in the back country in Aru, off New Guinea And he meets a man who says, “My country is Wanumbai Anyone can say Wanumbai I’m an orang-Wanumbai But N-glung? Who ever heard of such a name? Do tell us the real name of your country, and then when you are gone we shall know how to talk about you.” N-glung, right “To this luminous argument and remonstrance I could oppose nothing but assertion And the whole body remained firmly convinced that I was for some reason or other deceiving them.” This is really long, I apologize But it’s also a wonderful piece of travel writing He slips into the present tense And you have this very immediate description of what’s happening in his environment “Early morning, before the sun has risen, we hear the loud cry of wawk, wawk, wawk, which resounds through the forest, changing its direction continually This is the great bird of paradise, going to seek his breakfast Others soon follow his example; lories and parakeets cry shrilly, cockatoos scream, king-hunters croak and bark, and the various smaller birds chirp and whistle their morning song As I lie listening to these interesting sounds, I realize my position as the first European who has ever lived for months together in the Aru Islands, a place which I had hoped rather than expected ever to visit I think how many besides myself had longed to reach these almost fairy realms, and to see with their own eyes the many wonderful and beautiful things that I am daily encountering Somebody had brought in a black cockatoo, brought in last night, which I must skin immediately And so I jump up and begin my day’s work very happily.” But I want to introduce you to my favorite feature of Wallace’s writing And you will recognize this I’m sure everyone recognizes that We have Singaporeans in the audience, I know This is a durian, an extraordinary fruit, a delicacy in Southeast Asia But the reason I want to introduce this– this is a sample of Wallace’s writing It’s a famous passage It has what I call the “Wallace Slide.” He’s a scientist He’s going to start off with almost– it’s a boring, dry, technical botanical description But then he’s going to slid And his enthusiasm and his passion is just going to overwhelm the science The slide from science into passion “The five cells are satiny white within, and are each filled with an oval mass of cream-colored pulp, imbedded in which are two or three seeds about the size of chestnuts.” This is the boring description “This pulp is the eatable part, and its consistency and flavor are indescribable A rich, butter-like custard, highly flavored with almonds, gives the best general idea of it But intermingled with it come wafts of flavor that call to mind cream cheese, onions sauce, brown sherry, and other incongruities Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy It is neither acid, nor sweet, nor juicy; yet one feels the want of none of these qualities, for it’s perfect as it is It produces no nausea or other bad effect And the more you eat of it, the less you feel inclined to stop In fact, to eat durians is a new sensation, worth a voyage to the East to experience.” I just think that is a fantastic, powerful, evocative piece of writing The other device that he uses– and he’s a scientist, remember– is, I’m going to call it deadpanning it He tells a story, he doesn’t– his stories are so damn good, he doesn’t need to embroider He doesn’t need to Boys’ Own the story– Boys’ Own there being a transitive verb And the point is rather well made Albert Bickmore was a zoologist at the American Museum of Natural History who published a book visiting many of the same places, at more or less the same time And in fact, often the two books– Wallace’s Malay Archipelago and Bickmore’s book were reviewed together and By reading them side by side, you really get a sense of why Wallace is a keeper and Bickmore is not Both of them are describing an account, an encounter And they both have illustrated it with a big snake And you already get it This is Bickmore, killing the python For Wallace, this is ejecting an intruder So Wallace, “There was a great scuffle as the snake coiled round the chairs and posts to resist his enemy But at length the man caught hold of its tail, rushed out of the house, running so quick the creature seem quite confounded, tried to strike its head against a tree He missed, however, and let go, and the snake got under a dead trunk close by It was again poked out, and again the Bourn man caught hold of its tail, and running away quickly dashed its head with a swing against the tree And it was then easily killed with a hatchet It was about 12-feet long, very thick, capable of doing much mischief and of swallowing a dog or a child.” [LAUGHTER] That’s a nice, straight account This is Bickmore “Suffering the acutest agony from the deep wound I had already given him, he raised his head high,

out of the midst of his huge coil, his red jaws wide open, his eyes flashing fire like live coals I felt the blood chill in my veins For an instant, we glanced into each other’s eyes, and both instinctively realized that one of us two must die on the spot.” [LAUGHTER] So I’m happy to say that Darwin loved the book He sort of had to, with a dedication like that, didn’t he “I’ve finished your book It seems to me most excellent, and at the same time most pleasant to read that you ever returned alive is wonderful after all your risks from illness and sea voyages, especially that most interesting one to Waigiou and back Of all the impressions that I’ve received from your book, the strongest is that your perseverance in the cause of science was heroic.” I think that’s actually a wonderful statement about the book “Your descriptions of catching the splendid butterflies have made me quite envious, and at the same time have made me feel almost young again, so vividly have they brought before my mind old days when I collected, though I never made such captures as yours Certainly collecting is the best sport in the world I shall be astonished if your book is not a great success.” So finally, I just want to talk– and this is going to be quick, never fear I just want to talk briefly about the reception and the impact And I want to tell you about the most peculiar aspect of this book We have just described how this period of Wallace’s life was extremely formative and if nothing else, was very significant for the fact that he discovered the best theory that anyone’s ever discovered You know, that’s kind of big And we know that he knew it was big Remember that letter to his mother He knows this is big Now, does he write some interesting insight about how he stumbled across these ideas? He’s going to be somewhat modest But does he write a great account of writing the “Sarawak Law,” of being in fever in the Spice Islands and discovering natural selection? No Does he mention these ideas in the book? No It’s actually extraordinary that he would write this book And this book, by the way, it’s long and detailed This is from one of the reviews It sort of makes the point, rather nicely There’s a review from the Atlantic Monthly “Mr. Wallace apparently exhausts a very copious diary in the production of his book, and seems almost to have made it a point of conscience not to leave anything out.” Yeah, OK So he’s not missed it because he had to condense too much stuff in there Well, maybe, you say, he didn’t want to talk about science It was too technical, to technical This is a travel book It’s you know, it’s for your uncle at Christmastime, right? No, this is the most boring page in the book This– I mean, this is not sparing his reader anything So he’s in Borneo, here are the dates And here is the weather on each night and the number of moths he caught OK, so this is no holds barred scientific account So that’s not the reason Maybe he’s controversy-averse He doesn’t want to go into the dangerous waters, the controversial waters of the Darwin Wallace theory No, he discusses that Darwin Wallace theory He refers to it Here is something where he’s talking about two forms coming to look like each other, what we call mimicry “This principle of variation and that of, “natural selection” or survival of the fittest, as elaborated by Mr. Darwin in his celebrated Origins of Species, offers a foundation of such a theory.” No, there’s absolutely no mention of his own contributions It’s actually– and it’s difficult, really, to make– I mean, you just have to think this guy is pathologically modest And he always saw Darwin as the senior party He always deferred to Darwin Darwin was his hero He read the Voyage of the Beagle as a young man So he always thought it was a privilege to be part of Darwin’s world But that didn’t prevent him from having some very serious disagreements with Darwin, down the road But just to give you an idea of how pathologically modest, Wallace’s second best book was written after that tour of the United States And he’d given lectures on evolution, his take on evolution by natural selection And people had told him, this is great, actually I’ve read the Origin, but you’ve explained everything so much better Why don’t you write down your ideas? So he wrote down his ideas So this is his Origin of Species What title did he choose? Darwinism [LAUGHTER] No, it’s really remarkable, the extent to which he has eclipsed himself That’s the first thing, in terms of the sort of reception and impact The second thing, and this is kind of cool It’s alive and well, scientifically, the ideas that Wallace developed So here is this area where the bridge from Australia

to the Asian zone is And this is a new analysis of a biogeographic variation, Wallace style And there it is, an update of Wallace’s zoogeographic regions of the world That was in Science last year This came out, when was this, 2010 I think This is a paper Wallace was so solid in his observations and so reliable and so good in his note taking, that conservation biology has been able to use that as a baseline for the density of the orang populations in Borneo, where Wallis was working and used that to calibrate the rate of loss So fine, so there’s been a scientific impact Well, that’s kind of what we’d expect But perhaps the coolest thing about this wonderful book is it had a literary impact, as well And not many books of science have literary impacts This is Joseph Conrad And remember, Conrad’s writing about exactly– a lot of nautical books, a lot set in the Far East And The Malay Archipelago was quote “his favorite bedside book.” And Wallace features So Lord Jim– and this is the movie poster, Peter O’Toole– that was the good old days, wasn’t it, when men were men [LAUGHTER] This is Lord Jim Lord Jim is sort of very loosely modeled on the life of James Brooke, actually In Lord Jim, however, he is an entomologist called Stein, who is Alfred Russel Wallace, manifestly Here is a passage from the Malay Archipelago, this is Wallace And this is describing capturing one of these things And this, again, has the Wallace Slide This is a lovely piece of writing “The next day, I went to get the same shrub and succeeded in catching a female, and the day after a fine male.” This is the male “And I found it to be as I had expected, a perfectly new and most magnificent species.” Ornithoptera croesus “And one of the most gorgeously colored butterflies in the world Fine specimens of the male are more than seven inches across the wings, which are velvety black and fiery orange, the latter color replacing the green of the allied species.” This is the technical description “The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable, and none but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when at length, I captured it On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently The blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I’ve done when in apprehension of immediate death I had a headache for the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause.” It’s a beautiful piece of writing And Conrad knows his good pieces of writing So here’s Stein in Lord Jim “I got him! When I got up, I shook like a leaf with excitement, and when I opened those beautiful wings and made sure what a rare and so extraordinary perfect specimen I had, my head when round, and my legs became so weak with emotion that I had to sit on the ground.” So I do think that’s– and I really want to finish with that I think it’s remarkable We have a book of science, a book of observation, a book of anthropology, a book of linguistics He even has an appendix, where he’s got common words from multiple languages that he encountered This guy is a true vacuum cleaner, in terms of information, which he’s then regurgitating in the pages of the Malay Archipelago He’s regurgitating everything, except the stuff we want to know about, which is how did you discover evolution by natural selection That’s a bit personal My final slide is this This is Thomas Henry Huxley He’s the guy, remember, who had the duh moment over evolution by natural selection Best known as Darwin’s Bulldog So Darwin is sitting at home, feeling poorly and a little frail and fragile He doesn’t want to go out into combat, on behalf of his ideas So he has his boys, has his bulldog go out and attack And he’s a defender of the Darwinian orthodoxy Huxley is not easy to please And he has this wonderful statement made shortly after Wallace came back from Southeast Asia As I say, he’s not a sycophantic, is old TH Huxley “Once in a generation,” he writes, “a Wallace may be found physically, mentally, and morally qualified to wander unscathed through the tropical wilds of America and Asia, to form magnificent collections as he wanders.” And I think this is the important thing “And withal to think out sagaciously the conclusions suggested by collections.” He’s surviving, he’s making remarkable collections

But he’s having these extraordinary, synthetic, meta insights That’s extraordinary And so this is actually the conclusion of my introduction to this edition “In light of The Malay Archipelago, we might add to this judgment that it is seldom true that such exploratory zeal and scientific brilliance are coupled so providentially with a facility for writing lyrically and passionately yet precisely about hazardous journeys, curious geographies, spectacular species, unimagined places, and extraordinary peoples Thank you very much [APPLAUSE] I’m happy to take questions, if anyone has them But don’t feel constrained to sit here and wait through that process You should be rushing out to buy copies of the book, obviously [LAUGHTER] Any questions? Can you say something about the Wallace Line, so I understand it a little more? Oh, sure The Wallace Line is this discontinuity between the Australasian and the Asian flora and fauna So on the Australasian side, you don’t have monkeys You have cuscus and phalanger Whereas you’ve got monkeys on the Asian side Now why is that? We know that– it turns out that Southeast Asia is on two separate tectonic plates And Borneo, Java, and Sumatra are on one And so that’s actually relatively shallow water And then New Guinea and the islands to the west are on another one, also fairly shallow But between them is a deep water trench And what’s more, we know now from plate tectonics– Wallace didn’t know this– that these things were much further apart And they’ve drifted closer to each other So that their current propinquity is recent, in geological terms So in a sense, they are still– over time, things will spread, and that boundary will be gradually erased But it’s recent enough that that boundary is still alive and well Yes, sir Really fascinating But it seems to me, Darwin must have done something original I mean, what– [LAUGHTER] What I mean is what did Darwin do that wasn’t just stealing what Wallace had done? Darwin didn’t– Darwin did not steal anything This is the nice thing Darwin was even worse than Wallace, in terms of writing everything down So we have this ridiculously comprehensive set of Darwin’s notes So famously, he was sick for a long time He had all sorts of bowel problems We know how many times he had diarrhea, and how many times he threw up We really do And a friend of mine wants to write a book, entitled The Origin of Feces [LAUGHTER] And he had written in 1844, when Wallace is still– it’s actually the year that he met Bates, when he’s becoming turned on to beetles He wrote down his theory So he had a first draft of his theory Darwin had a first half of his theory And it was actually– it’s really interesting So that same book that really turned Wallace on, The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, that book, I think, had a very severe, if you like, retarding effect on Darwin Why? Here is a theory of evolution What happened to that theory? Yeah, fine, Queen Victoria heard it read to her in German accent But every scientist who reviewed that book jumped down its throat This is poor science, it’s polemical, it’s heretical Including, by the way, some of the harshest reviewers were Darwin’s direct mentors at Cambridge So what’s Darwin– Darwin’s there He’s on the brink I’ve got my ideas, I– heh heh Right? So what he does, is he decides– he’s not in a hurry He’s independently wealthy, he’s comfortable He doesn’t have to rush this thing out He can be careful and serious about it So he draws back and decides to consolidate, consolidate, consolidate So first comment is no, I mean, there’s no– it’s actually a fantastic case study in the history of science These two people really did generate this same idea, which had been apparently elusive for generations and generations This is something people– I mean, people had been thinking about since they started thinking Every creation myth is an attempt to explain the things that Evolution by Natural Selection explained And yet nobody got there, until these two– until 1858 So what that is, it’s not about the people

What it is, it’s about the social, cultural, technical, milieu in which these guys found themselves It’s no accident, for example, that it was found by British people Now British people like to think that’s because we’re smarter than other people But it’s not It’s because at that stage, we had a very, very serious maritime empire And both– Darwin was on a naval expedition, so that’s straightforward Wallace wasn’t, but his access to everything was facilitated by the fact, that you know, if somebody got in Mr Wallace’s way, they’d send a gunboat to clear the way So it’s actually a remarkable case where you’ve got a confluence of factors, which have resulted in these two, just sort of fairly normal people, independently So the way I like to think of it is previously, courtesy of the church and so on, these simple ideas had been rather high hanging fruit Then, courtesy of things like laissez-faire economics, the imperial travel opportunities as I’ve described, the Industrial Revolution suddenly making things act on your behalf They aren’t magical A steam engine is just a pile of coal and some water, whereas a horse is rather more mysterious So there’s a whole bunch of things which have caused that high hanging fruit to come down much lower And suddenly it’s accessible to the likes of Darwin and Wallace And I know I nay say poor old Darwin, with respect to Wallace Darwin was brilliant And the work he did post Origin– so The Descent of Man, His analysis of human evolution, his theory of sexual selection– it’s all stupendous And one of the reasons, by the way, he has survived so much better than Wallace is Wallace kept doing science But Wallace used is new found prominence to engage with every underdog cause he could possibly find He was an anti-vaccer, for crying out loud He became a spiritualist He believed, can you believe this, that women should have the vote [LAUGHTER] He was an outspoken socialist Whereas Darwin consolidated, concretized, focused So yes, don’t get it– I love Darwin, too Yes, Ma’am You mentioned that there were differences between them later in life I’m [INAUDIBLE] Wallace [INAUDIBLE] Did he have a different take [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, so I personally think that the background differences between the two has been overplayed So as I said, Wallace was poor but only because his father, his father hung out with Beau Brummell in Bath in the social season His father was just feckless And remember, this is Britain So that you can be incredibly poor, but still relatively upper class Now there’s no question that money made Darwin’s life a hell of a lot easier Yes, he was a man of leisure And Wallace, by the way, inherited his father’s fecklessness with money He was wealthy when he came back from Southeast Asia His agent had done a fantastically good job, in terms of selling his material and investing the proceeds Wallace took over and promptly lost everything He used to make a living– and this is the most excruciating thing I can think of He used to make a living– he was a professional exam grader Ugh [LAUGHTER] And there’s a lovely finale to the story, because he was rescued from penury by Darwin Darwin arranged for a government pension of 200 pounds a year– this was a year before Darwin died– for Wallace So yes, there was a social divide But it wasn’t a– and there was certainly a serious financial divide Darwin was an extremely astute investor But did that have an impact upon– no, I think their perception of Malthus was pretty similar We know that Darwin was– Malthus was the guy who pointed out that the simple, if you like, almost truism that natural populations– he was thinking about the human population, but this applies to any population– has the capacity for exponential increase, and yet resources are unlikely to increase at that rate What does that mean? That means we’re going to run out of resources at some stage And that’s obviously a fundamental underpinning

of the idea of natural selection We know that had a big impact on Darwin Wallace only wrote down his account– because he didn’t write about in The Malay Archipelago It was only later So for example, 1905 he publishes his autobiography He gives us an account of how he came up with the idea And so he’s reconstructing what he was thinking about, 50 years prior, in a malarial delirium So I mean, there’s obviously an element of interpretation there And he does say that Malthus was a key player in that story And I’ve always been slightly suspicious, again, because of his hero worship of Darwin that Malthus was part of that Darwin story He was sort of buckling his chariot to that same vehicle, so to speak I might be unfair But I don’t think there was any major departure there On sexual selection there definitely was a major departure And by the way, this is a lovely illustration of these guys relationship As I say, there’s no question that Wallace really admired Darwin And Darwin certainly really appreciated the toing and froing he had intellectually And there are really detailed, bang, bang, bang letters on these points, like sexual selection There were two things, two big things they disagreed upon Sexual selection Wallace didn’t like the idea that you could assume that a quote “simple organism” could make aesthetic judgments, which is what it came down to, ultimately Darwin had no such problems The second thing that they disagreed was on human evolution And this was a real problem And again, another reason why I think Wallace has being eclipsed Wallace was a spiritualist So you needed to have some kind of insertion of a spirit You needed some kind of intervention He wouldn’t have a regular god But there was something immaterial about the process So there was these two big bones of contention between the two of them In 1871, Darwin writes The Descent of Man, which is a book about human evolution and sexual selection So he writes this nice letter, a friendly letter to Wallace And he says, I’m really sorry about this, but my next book is basically a condensation of everything we disagree upon I’m really sorry This is really going to get up your nose And Wallace writes back– and this is such a model for doing science He writes back, that sounds fantastic I look forward to being crushed by the mountain of your facts [LAUGHTER] Bring it on! But Wallace was somewhat inconsistent in his application of sexual selection He didn’t like sexual selection By the way, he didn’t like the term, selection, at all He didn’t like the term, natural selection It was another cause of disagreement So sexual selection fell under the same rubric Why? For Darwin, the important thing was the analogy with artificial selection So you’re a farmer You are artificially selecting cattle for increased milk yield You’re only breeding from the ones with the best milk yield So that’s chapter one of The Origin of Species And we’re all comfortable with that And then it’s almost a sort of sleight of hand And then you say you don’t need the farmer, because this is going to happen in nature You’re comfortable thinking about it on the farm, so you should be comfortable thinking about it in nature Well, no, says Wallace If you’re using the word selection, that implies a selector And that’s the whole point You’ve got the bloody farmer And therefore, the tendency, if you’re going to call it natural selection, is there’s some divine selector, designing things So Wallace actually preferred Herbert Spencer’s term, survival of the fittest to natural selection So he objected to sexual selection on the aesthetic choice ground He objected to it, because it was using the s-word, again, selection But he then used it And so in this way, and it’s a very ingenious argument I think it’s slightly fatuous He was a socialist And he had this sort of Utopian vision of humans getting ever better He was also what today you would call, I suppose, a feminist As I say, he was very early weighing in, in terms of women’s votes He believed that the reason humans have problems– or did then– was the lack of opportunity for women to exercise what Darwin would call sexual selection By which his vision was, if you’re a woman, you don’t really get to choose your partner, because you’re in this benighted, if you like, unfree position So you’re sort of on the market And then you just take the best priced individual who comes along, whatever So you’re not exercising any choice So he had a vision of the emancipation of women

So women, instead of just taking the first guy with a fat pocketbook who maybe is bad news genetically and everything else, women actually exercise their choice, their sexual selection And that way, we’ll improve the human stock So bizarrely, that really is an application of Darwin’s sexual selection thingee But that was OK for Wallace, because humans, yes We can make aesthetic and other judgments But can peacocks? He would have said no Well, I don’t want to keep you too long One more question Yes, sir Excellent presentation Thank you very much I was wondering just how [INAUDIBLE] Darwin held back on his theories maybe in [INAUDIBLE] kind of reticent for his wife’s religion and things like that Did Wallace have any of that? [INAUDIBLE] You mentioned [INAUDIBLE] as Darwin, as Darwin’s supporters did So, two comments Wallace was deeply un self-promoting So he writes a book about his adventures It’s all somewhat self-deprecating He doesn’t talk about his great discovery He’s the only person who writes an autobiography– you know, an autobiography is where you settle scores You explain whoever ever disagreed with you is a moron It’s all about self-justification He has a section in his autobiography about certain deficiencies in my mental equipment So I wasn’t very good at this And that segment on his bad swimming is part of his autobiography So as I say, he almost has this pathological non self-promotion His wife, actually, was a spiritualist with him So they were both very active in the spiritualist cause And he wrote multiple books on spiritualism Thomas Henry Huxley, the man who gave us the word agnostic, and Wallace says, why did you come to a seance with me sometime? And that’s not the person to ask And he had this with slightly strange sort of materialism meets spiritualism perspective, as we assume his wife did We don’t know much about Annie, to be honest The two-volume autobiography, he doesn’t actually mention her by name In that passage about his marriage, he refers to her as the daughter of his friend And he does refer to his wife or we on a few occasions But it’s really stunning how little we know about her But the other thing I would have to add to that is the traditional vision– and Janet Browne, who is the great Darwin scholar, has a great description of this Emma Darwin, as a spiritual policeman or policewoman She’s very doctrinaire, evangelical Christian, and everything is black or white, and if you’re not on our side, you’re against it That’s completely naive It’s inaccurate She was a very sophisticated person, sophisticated thinker Yes, there’s no question she was concerned about her husband’s spiritual destiny, if you like But it really wasn’t as antagonistic or as awkward as I think a lot of the popular media would make it out to be As I say, I think he did delay And he certainly knew that what he was doing was dangerous and heretical And I’m sure the fact that he would upset his nearest and dearest was part of that story But I suspect that seeing his scientific colleagues trash Chambers’s book loomed much larger in his personal universe than conjugal concerns, would be my guess OK, most tragic and inappropriate that we finish with a discussion of Darwin But whatever [LAUGHTER] That’s the way it is [APPLAUSE]