The peripatetic visitor to Indonesia will usually return home with
stories and recollections of exotic sights and varied customs. In most cases, the
highlights described will culminate in descriptions of the small and beautiful island of
Bali, a Hindu enclave midway along the three thousand mile spread of the Muslim
archipelagic islands that make up the country. The reports will describe elaborate temples
and near-daily festivals; they will recall the lush green of the rice paddies and the
quiet beauty of Mount Agung mirrored in still lakes. If he is fortunate, he will sit on
the eastern shore at twilight, gazing across the narrow strait to the nearby island of
Lombok, a view that Charlie Chaplin once described as the loveliest on earth. This also
was the site where Alfred Russel Wallace made deductions pointing toward the concept of
plate tectonics, a century before their establishment. During that same period, in the
mid-nineteenth century, he independently put to paper the ideas regarding evolutionary
change that made Charles Darwin the best-known man of his time. Who was Wallace and what
lies behind his history and ponderings?
was born in Hertford, England on January 8, 1823, the eighth of nine children fathered by a feckless drifter from job to job.
Three of the five girls died in childhood and one shortly after; only two of the boys
reached middle age. He, himself , had frequent illness in childhood, on one occasion
nearly dying. He was physically weak and unable to swim, his long, heavy legs dragging him
under the water. Although he enjoyed reading, he did not do well at school and was not
deemed promising, ceasing all formal education at the age of fourteen.
spent some time in London with his older brother John, a builders apprentice. He
soon returned to the country to live with another brother, a surveyor. He had no lasting
jobs of his own and few prospects. He later recalled that at the age of twenty-one, seven
years after dropping out of school, he had never had a gold sovereign of his own. At the
time, phrenology was highly regarded in England and he twice had the bumps on his head
analyzed, seeking answers to his future. Most of the readings were discouraging but those
for ideality and wonder were large, signifying a delight in the
grand, the beautiful and the mysterious. This was Wallace as a young adult, with few
friends, prospects or desires.
the solitude, he took to rambles through the countryside, basically Sunday strolls.
Knowing nothing of the plants about him, he took to collecting them and then spent half
his meager savings on a book on the elements of botany in order to identify his
assortment. In a short time he became a self-taught botanic enthusiast with his collection
of pressed and dried plants. It is of note that such country walks and collections were a
common pastime in England of the mid-nineteenth century; quite Victorian, it was felt to
be good for body, mind and soul.
were created for the amateur botanists and for the zoologists and geologists as well, with
descriptive passages and identification for the self-taught. In addition, there were
numerous how-to books detailing techniques for preserving, mounting and
displaying the collected specimens. This mania pervaded all levels of society and public
presentations were as well attended as music and the stage. Learned groups appeared: the
Geologic Society was founded in 1807, the Zoologic Society in 1826, the Royal Geographic
Society in 1830 and the Entomological Society in 1833. More would follow. Where Linnaeus
had listed 444 known species of birds in 1758, others had listed 765 by 1817 and by the
1860s the number was eight thousand.
young autodidact Wallace soaked up all this new knowledge in the course of his countryside
walks and the organization of his botanical collections. In addition, he came across two
writers who would play a continuing and important role in his development and life. The
first of these was Robert Owen, who lectured at the Working Mens Institute
and from whom he absorbed the utopian socialist vision that never left him from that time.
The second was the Reverend Thomas Malthus, whose Essay on the Principle of
Population was to provide the seed of inquiry that lead to his studies of evolution.
other issue that the widespread fascination with nature had produced in England was the
conflict between what was being learned and what was being taught as a result of studies
of the Bible. There was no groundswell at this time to overturn Gods Will and the
story of creation, but there were troubling time frames and fossil findings that led to a
sense of uncertainty. Interestingly, many of the naturalists raising these worrisome
problems were clergymen, who were among the most avid of the weekend collectors. This then
was the world in which the young and quiet drifter Alfred Wallace was living.
1844 his surveying work was at an end, and he took a modest teaching job at a school in
Leicester. While visiting the library there, he met another shy young man with similar
interests in nature study. While Wallace was a botanist, Henry Walter Bares collected
beetles. His collection amazed Wallace in its extent and because of the fact that they had
all been obtained around Leicester. He obtained the necessary equipment and manuals and
threw himself into the adventure of beetling. Even after he returned to London to resume
work with his brother, he and Bates kept in touch, writing back and forth about insects
and ideas. In 1847, while on a beetling holiday together, they jointly felt the need to
expand their horizons, and the plan for a nature-collecting trip abroad was hatched.
was a rather wild scheme they both later recalled. They had almost no money
between them and no connections whatever that might provide the support of the government
or the wealthy. That fall they read A
Voyage up the Amazon by William Edwards, and were drawn to the tropics like moths to
resources or outside support, they elected to finance their journey as a speculation,
selling specimens of what they proposed to collect. The British Museum assured them that
there would be a good market for their collections, and they were fortunate to make
arrangements with Samuel Stevens, an art dealer and agent with offices on Bedford Street,
just around the corner from the museum. This turned out to be an excellent choice, as he
not only provided support but also became a lifelong friend to both. In later years
Wallace wrote that Stevens spared no pains to dispose of my duplicates to the best
advantage, kept me supplied with cash and giving me general information on the progress of
other collectors and on matters of general scientific interest.
part of their departure plans, they had to hurriedly acquire new skills. They learned how
to construct boxes for storing and shipping. They were to collect birds as well, and they
spent a week in the bloody business of shooting and skinning. Wallace had himself
vaccinated and purchased a spare set of eyeglasses. On April 28, 1848 they boarded the Mischief at Liverpool, heading across the Atlantic.
They were the only passengers. Wallace was violently seasick for five days.
month later the ship reached Belem at the mouth of the Amazon. Both were fascinated by the
luxuriant tropical growth and immediately started on their collecting. They settled into a
small villa surrounded by jungle and into a regular pattern of activity. They rose at dawn
and spent two hours before breakfast pursuing birds. Then, from ten till three it was
entomology, with birds and mammals at rest and
the temperature in the low and muggy nineties. They took tea at four, dined at seven and
spent most evenings preserving their collections and making notes. It was a slow way of
making a living, at fourpence a specimen, minus commission and fees.
a year, they made a friendly decision to separate, Bates heading for the upper Amazon
where he was to remain for the next ten years and Wallace along the Rio
Negro coming down from Venezuela. During the next two years Wallace traveled further
upstream than any Europeans, at times with itinerant traders, occasionally with renegades
and defrocked priests and often with the local Indians. At night he wrote blank verse and
pertimes watched the dancing of the women he described them for the perfect
nudity of these daughters of the forest. By day, his collecting was equally
astounding to them: skinning and stuffing animals and putting them in boxes. They thought
the insects might be for medicine and the butterflies as patterns for calico prints. In
England there were seventy species of butterfly; in Amazonia he collected four hundred
species in the first two months. His writings reflected his chosen solitude; one such
be an Indian here, and live content
fish, and hunt and paddle my canoe
see my children grow, like young wild fawns
health of body and in peace of mind,
without wealth, and happy without gold!
after Wallace wrote this, his helpers vanished one night, and he slowly made his way back
to a village, bitten by insects, racked with malaria and unable to collect or shoot
animals for food. Later yet, and further downstream, he met his youngest brother Herbert,
who had come to join him. The latter stayed for a few months, realized that the life of a
collector was too much for him, and headed back to Belem, where he contracted yellow fever
and died. Alfred continued his work, collecting birds, fish, insects and plants along with
careful notes regarding location and his own surmises about their inter-relation.
four years, he decided it was time to go and headed down the Amazon, taking with him not
only his boxed and organized specimens but fifty-two live animals. The number shrank by
half as he made his way to the coast a black monkey escaped and ate two of his
prize parrots and a toucan flew off. He was further disappointed when he arrived at the
port and discovered many of his boxes sent years before still stacked up awaiting customs
his live and preserved collection, he finally boarded the brig Helen on July 12, 1852, bound for London. Once
again, Wallace was seasick. Three weeks out into the Atlantic, the ship caught fire,
leading to a chaotic abandonment. He went into a leaky lifeboat with only a few notes and
his pocketwatch. For a day and a night the survivors watched the ship burn before sinking.
All his boxes and all his animals went with it, save one parrot that was picked up after
falling in the water. The two lifeboats drifted for ten days before being rescued by the Jordeson sailing out of Cuba. The latter was a
small vessel that nearly foundered in a severe storm, lost its cargo to flooding and ran
out of provisions. It did, however, finally make port and Wallace stepped ashore on
October 1st, after eighty days at sea.Wallace had nothing with him but a spare
was as resilient at home as he had been in the jungle, and within a week had made a visit
to a meeting of the Entomological Society. Fortunately, his careful agent, Samuel Stevens,
had taken it upon himself to insure his specimens against loss, and with the monies
obtained he purchased a new suit and indulged in his passion for beefsteak and damson pie.
He spent the next months in writing two books related to his travels and in haunting the
museums and libraries of the many scientific societies of London. At this point in time,
he was already committed to further natural history research and the only matter to be
determined was the locale of his investigations. The primary candidates were the high
Andes or the Philippines; further pondering and the advice of the learned societies turned
him eventually to the Indonesian archipelago. This great swath of islands and seas
extended four thousand miles east to west and thirteen hundred miles north to south across
the equator. Little was known of its natural riches and less of its flora and fauna. It
seemed ready made for Wallace.
made a formal application to the Royal Geographic Society for assistance, which was
granted. The president of the society, Sir Roderick Murchison, even made arrangements for
free passage on the naval ship Frolic, headed in
the right direction. In return , he was to carry out geographic as well as biologic
studies and was outfitted with astronomical and meteorologic instruments. A young
assistant, Charles Allen, was recruited and they boarded the brig.
immediately, problems arose. The Crimean War had started and the navy ship was diverted to
the Black Sea. New accommodations were obtained on a P. and O. steamer heading for
Alexandria in Egypt. They then went up the Nile by horse-drawn carriage to Cairo and east
to Suez there was no canal at this time where they sailed on another P and O
packet, finally reaching Singapore, after forty-five days, on April 20, 1854. He would be
away from England for the next eight years.
was the southeastern-most extension of the British Empire; everything beyond was ruled by
the Dutch or by local chiefs and despots. This did not slow him down, as he obtained the
assistance of the Dutch and the kindness of strangers at all levels as he moved about
these foreign seas. His assistant, Charles Allen, was far less resilient; after only a few
weeks he became disenchanted with the life and returned home. This did not appear to be a
big problem as a young Malay named Ali joined him and remained not only loyal but of great
value and assistance during the years and miles ahead. His kit was light: hammock,
blankets, folding table and wash basin, along with his knives, guns and boxes. For food
the main staples were rice and curry powder as well as butter, salt, sugar and tea. He
would often hire local natives to cook, carry and hunt as they went. On occasion they met
and were helped by others, but this tiny core was the essential framework of his travels.
he traveled was not only unmapped to a great extent, but peopled by tribes for whom the
gangly giant was an object of not merely amazement but of great amusement. He noted in his
journal: One day when I was rambling in the forest, an old man stopped to look at me
catching an insect. He stood very quiet until I had pinned and put it away in my
collecting box, when he could contain himself no longer, but bent almost double and
enjoyed a hearty roar of laughter. Later, in the Celebes, he recalled Wherever
I went, dogs barked, children screamed, women ran away and men stared as though I were
some strange and terrible cannibal monster.
was a certain amount of luck in his choice of this archipelago as the place of his
collecting and investigation. Other large tropical forests existed in Africa and Brazil,
but only here did two of the major biologic realms Asia and Australia come
into such close approximation. The species variation provided under similar and varying
conditions were a great stimulus to the inquiring mind devoted to both collecting and explanation. His recognition of the huge
difference of communities of two nearby islands helped inform his insights on evolution,
biogeography and earth history. Wallace gradually came to the belief that though animals
of isolated but similar environments might look the same, they could be completely
unrelated, having evolved separately to the same end.
travels to different islands of the archipelago were not just aimless drifting; he had
laid out a list of sites and animals in which he was specifically interested. The reason
was bifold: intellectually, certain creatures were of greater interest, and ,financially,
acquisition of desired specimens were necessary to support his work. Two beings fulfilled
both goals: the Orangutan and the Bird of Paradise. Both were known to European scientists
only through viewing of skinned remnants and little was known of their life, range and
habits. With this in mind, Wallace devoted his first years to Borneo, one of two islands
to shelter the great apes.
March, 1855, he arrived in Borneo, where he was fortunate to meet and be befriended by
James Brooke, another lonely Englishman , who had parlayed his warriors skills and
administrative abilities into effective control of Sarawak, which he ruled as the white
rajah. Brooke was well-taken by the industrious Wallace and provided him with a
small cottage in the forest for his work. The rajahs secretary later wrote of the
many nights the two men would pass the time in religious or philosophic discussion; he
added that the first embryonic ideas related to evolutionary theory were already being
tested in Wallaces mind at that time.
orangutan may have been his principal interest, but his general collecting continued
apace. On rainy nights he would sit outside his cottage netting and boxing the life of the
rainforest. He caught more than 800 different moths in four nights and 1386 in one month.
He found a new and remarkable butterfly which he named Ornithoptera brookiana in honor of his patron. There were flying frogs,
which he had never heard of, and clouds of fruit bats a mile across. He made the
acquaintance of the durian, the fruit with the wonderful taste and the fetid smell; it
also had sharp spines and could injure or kill a man when dropping from the tree. Wallace
noted in his journal: trees and fruits, no less than the varied productions of the
animal kingdom, do not appear to be organized with exclusive reference to the use and
convenience of man.
was here when he met his first Orangutan. In the accepted, if repellent manner of those
days, he shot it and preserved the skin to be sent back to England. There later were
others, but at the same time he did adopt a three pound baby who he kept in a box in his
cottage. He fed it rice water through a quill, the mixture sweetened with sugar and
coconut milk. Daily cleansings were carried out and with the help of a small ladder the
young girl was taught to walk. Unfortunately, the young orangutan died after three months
during a fever affecting many of the local humans. He noted at the time I much
regretted the loss of my little pet
who I had hoped to take home to England. In
a paper written the following year he added that the apes resemble and mock the
human form divine; this at a time when man was not regarded as part of the animal
the end of this first productive year in Borneo, his collected specimens including
seven orangutan skins preserved in arrack were dispatched to London. When the Water Lily sailed from Singapore on March 5, 1856
it contained, besides the liquor-soaked orangutans, 7,000 insects and 60 animal and bird
skins. Much to Wallaces annoyment, Her Majestys Customs insisted that his
agent, Stevens, pay duty on the arrack. He lost this battle but did eventually receive new
clothes and replacement eyeglasses for the year ahead.
the equatorial wet season, when collecting was difficult, he whiled away the lonely nights
by pondering his observations and analyzing his thoughts about species development and
human origins. In a paper summarizing these thoughts he concluded the following: Every
species has come into existence both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied
species. A short paper containing these ruminations was sent off to England by slow
boat and was published several months later in The
Annals and Magazine of Natural History. It elicited no public reaction, although
Samuel Stevens heard remarks to the effect that Wallace was theorizing when he should have
been collecting more facts.
his collecting season reopened, he headed further east beyond Borneo, to the Celebes and
the islands of the Moluccas. Direct passage was non-existent; he would have to go by way
of Bali and Lombock. It was on the latter that he first encountered the Megapodes, henlike
birds with huge feet and curved claws. They hatched their eggs communally, in mounds as
high as six feet and twenty feet across. Other birds such as honeysuckers were seen, while
the barbets so common on Bali had vanished. This discrepancy first provoked his beliefs
that the wildlife and the plantlife of these adjoining areas had origins far
separated. He came to believe that there were two large zoogeographic areas of origin
the Indoasian and the Australian, the anticipatory pronouncement of tectonic
plates. These thoughts were never far away during the years of collecting and the nights
of consideration of species evolution, and in 1863 he formally announced his proposed
separation site, now celebrated as Wallaces Line. It should be added, in
all fairness, that the much larger island of Celebes, just to the north, remained a
puzzle, and Wallace drew his line at differing times both east and west of what is now
called Sulawesi. Subsequent investigators over the next century have shifted the line a
few hundred miles, but the basic division and its reason remain to this day
as a tribute to the self-educated collector.
was an incidental goal however, and Wallace pushed on to the north and east in search of
new specimens and in particular the Bird of Paradise. A number of mutilated
skins of these unique and gorgeous birds had reached Europe, generally brought back by
circimnavigating sailors but none had been observed alive. At first, they were thought by
the savants to be footless, flying in the celestial reaches of paradise and descending to
earth only in death. Linnaeus had titled the bird Paradisaea
apoda; the absence of feet , it was later learned, was a consequence of the skinning
technique of the native bird-hunters. In any case, observation and collection of these
strange and colorful birds was one of the chief goals of Wallace, and it was to the Aru
Islands, beneath the shelving coast of New Guinea that he headed. It was January, 1857
before he reached there, and conditions were not good for seeing or collecting. The local
people told him that it was too early to see the various birds of paradise mating
season was some months away. An upsurge in activity by pirates also made roving searches
dangerous. He persisted in his wanders however, finding sponges and spiders, hermit crabs
and butterflies by the score. A special prize was the birdwing butterfly: he described how
I trembled with excitement and was lost in admiration, at the velvet black and
brilliant green of its wings, seven inches across, its golden body and crimson breast.
In all, he found nearly 1600 distinct species whose sale financed his researches for five
months of waiting finally were repaid with his first bird of paradise. He described it as
a small bird with the greater part of its plumage an intense cinnabar red with a
gloss as of spun glass. On the head the feathers became short and velvety and shaded into
rich orange. Beneath, from the breast downward was pure white with the softness of silk.
Across the breast a band of deep metallic green separated this colour from the red of the
throat. The bill was yellow and the feet and legs were a fine cobalt blue. He went
on to describe two more ornaments, the breast fans and the spiral-tipped tail wires; these
he called quite unique, not occurring in any other species of the 8000 different birds
that are known to exist upon the earth. In summary, he felt this to be the most
perfectly lovely of the many lovely productions of nature. In short, he was
time in the Aru Islands proved to be not only the most rewarding but the happiest of his
years in the archipelago. All this was despite the recurring illnesses and the aggravating
attacks of the native dogs on his open hut resulting in lost specimens.Nonetheless, at the
end of the collecting season in the Moluccas, Wallace would retreat to the island of
Ternate, one of the Dutch-controlled spice islands. A Dutch trader there, Rennesse van
Duivenboden arranged a small cottage there with room for sorting and arranging his
treasures. He also could enjoy the pleasures of milk and fresh bread, regaining his
January, 1858 while resting on the adjacent island of Gilolo, he suffered another attack
of malaria. Bed-ridden and febrile, he turned again to the consideration of survival in
the face of famine, disease and war. This in turn brought back images of Thomas Malthus
and his dire predictions. His feverish mind then made the unexpected jump: The same
factors that scourged humankind must act with even greater force upon animals, with the
strong surviving and the weaker doomed to death. He caught the brilliance of this insight
and later recalled: In the two hours that elapsed before my ague fit was over I had
thought out almost the whole of the theory, and the same evening I sketched the draft of
essence, what he reasoned was that in every animal species, many more individuals were
born than would survive. It did not matter how many individuals were born; if the numbers
born exceeded the limits set by external constraints, there would be deaths down to those
limits. The strongest individuals would be best placed to survive; the weakest would die.
And what was true of individuals was also true of species. The species best equipped to
exploit their habitat, find food and defend themselves against enemies had the best chance
of survival. Within species, over time, useful variations would tend to increase; useless
or harmful variations would tend to disappear. Superior varieties would ultimately
extirpate the original species. Today we understand that it is the simple ability to
procreate that is the hallmark of evolutionary change and that there is no inherent sense
of superiority or improvement in the succeeding generations of the survivors, but Wallace
had formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection. All this in a malarial fugue!
the next two days he wrote out his paper in full, mailing it to Charles Darwin from
Ternate. This was a bombshell! When it arrived on June 18th, it contained a
clear and lucid statement of what Darwin had been working on for twenty years. People such
as Lyell and Hooker had been urging Darwin to formally present his ideas for years, but
Darwin, probably realizing the philosophic and religious upheaval the theory would produce
, was deferring and looking for more proof. Yet the presentation and publication of
Wallaces paper would certainly give primacy to the non-establishment collector in Indonesia.
dilemma was a major one; he had been carefully working up his theory since 1838 and
his conclusions were the same as those of Wallace. To make matters worse, five days after
receipt of Wallaces letter Darwins son Charles contracted scarlet fever and
died within days. Devestated by these events, he turned to Lyel and Hooker for advice. The
three men met and decided that the ethical approach demanded some sort of joint
presentation. Accoringly, at the scheduled meeting of the Linnean Society on July first
that is two weeks later three papers would be presented. The first was
extracts from an unpublished essay of Darwin written in 1844. The second was part of a
letter written by Darwin to Asa Gray in 1857 and the third Wallaces paper from
Ternate. All three papers were read by others; Darwin was still so overcome by grief at
the death of his son that he did not attend. In a preamble to the meeting Lyel and Hooker
stated: These gentlemen having, independently and unknown to each other, conceived
the same very ingenious theory to account for the appearance and perpetuation of varieties
and of specific forms on our planet , may both fairly claim the merit of being original
thinkers in this important line of inquiry. They went on to say
authors having unreservedly placed their papers in our hands, we think it would best
promote the interests of science that a selection from them should be laid before the
presentation of the papers led to enormous controversy, primarily because of the subject
matter, which led to years of religio-scientific debates, but also because of the cloudier
issue of primacy of credit. Conspiracy theories have swirled from that day to the present
time. Some have believed that Lyel and Hooker arranged matters to favor Darwin, who was
one of their own, while others have faulted Darwin and based on shipping schedules
and the R.P.O. stated that he must have had Wallaces paper a month earlier. In any case, Wallace never
voiced any complaint and when news of the Linnean Society meeting finally reached him
months later he simply added that he was pleased to have pushed Darwin.
remained in the islands of Indonesia for another four years after that, continuing with
his collecting and assorting of the insects and animals of the rich area. Heading east
from Ternate once his health was restored , he sought more specimens of the elusive birds
of paradise, this time on the island of New Guinea. The sightings and , unfortunately by
our present-day standards, the shootings were good. He would pay a native hunter a flask
of arrack for a choice bird. The insects of the area also abounded but were less a source
of delight than a plague. There were centipedes, millipedes, scorpions, mosquitoes, flies
and sandflies. The bites covered his body and his feet broke down with inflamed ulcers. In
all, he was bed-ridden for over half the time spent there.
islands such as Dorey and Amberbaki were more rewarding. Although the medical and
psychologic problems persisted, the collecting was better. In five hours on one day he
found 95 distinct species of insects among rotting vegetation and dead leaves. Altogether,
in three months spent in a patch no more than a mile square he collected more than a
thousand differing kinds of beetles. It was the best beetling of his life.
more months were spent on the island of Batchian where the prizes were a previously
undescribed bird of paradise and a giant bird-wing butterfly. The skin of the former was
dispatched to the British Museum in London, where it was formally named Semioptera wallacii after him. The latter he
described as a perfectly new and most magnificent species; seven inches across the wings,
a velvety black and fiery orange. He recalled his feelings when taking it out of his net: ..my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much
more like fainting than I have done in the apprehension of immediate death. I had a
headache the rest of the day so great was the excitement. This marked the end of his
collecting in the east; he headed back to Ternate in a small prau, its sails gnawed
through by nesting rats, outracing the monsoon and his specimens intact.
now Wallace was starting to speak of his fatigue for the first time and of his desire to
return home to England. Before returning however, he spent five months in the westernmost
portion of the East Indies, in Java and Sumatra. Here were tigers and peacocks, differing
orang-utans and rhinosceri, flying lemurs and leaping langurs. The collecting went on to
the very end. During the eight years of his stay he shipped back from the islands a total
of 125,660 specimens: 310 mammals, 100 reptiles, 8,050 birds, 7,500 shells, 13,100
lepidopterans, 83,200 coleopterans and 13,400 other insects.
February, 1862 he prepared to sail from Singapore. With him he was taking two live
birds-of-paradise. He planned a diet of bananas and cockroaches for the birds. There were
plenty of bananas in Singapore and his experience told him that there was always a good
supply of cockroaches aboard ship. He was, however, booked on a Peninsular and Orient
steamer and it represented the highest standards of British cleanliness, meaning few if
any cockroaches in the passenger areas. Nightly forays into the hold produced a meager
supply. By the time the ship reached the Mediterranean there were few left, but during a
stopover in Malta, he raided an Italian bakery and obtained an adequate assortment for the
remainder of the voyage.
Marseilles he left the ship, heading north by train across France. After considerable
wrangling with the railway officials, the birds were allowed to travel with him in a
guards van where he could feed them. At the English Channel, one more ferry ride and his
arrival in London on April 1, 1862, eight years after his departure. Twenty-four hours
after arrival the two birds were delivered to the gardens of the Zoological Society in
Regents Park. They were put on public display inside the museum and given a diet of boiled
rice, bread , fruit and vegetables; there was also no shortage of London cockroaches. The
two birds both males liked the diet but not each other. They were placed in
adjoining cages where visitors could enjoy their competing displays.
for Wallace himself, he immediately set to work cataloging and sorting the thousands of
specimens that were at his disposal. His energy was enormous, especially for one
self-described as congenitally lazy, and his writings were voluminous. In the long years
remaining to him he put something into print on the average of every six weeks. A
twentieth century researcher studying his output counted 753 titles, ten thousand printed
pages and millions of words. The subjects covered ran the gamut of the sciences from
anthropology to sociology to zoology. In addition, he participated in the meetings and
discussions of most of the learned societies of London, joining with the likes of Darwin,
Lyell and Huxley to consider the great scientific issues of the day. All was not success
however; he applied for the post of Secretary of the Royal Geographic Society, but was
turned down. The successful candidate was his old colleague from the Amazon, Henry Bates.
There also was an unhappy love affair with a rejected proposal. In the same year though,
he began the courtship of 18 year old Mary Mitten, the daughter of a Suffolk botanist.
Theirs was a happy marriage and she provided much support to him in his life and his
everybodys urging , he finally completed a book of his experiences in the East
Indies; it was published in March, 1869. The Malay
Archipelago; The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise was an instant
success, reprinted fifteen times and widely translated. Joseph Conrad considered it his
favorite book. It was dedicated to Charles Darwin not only as a token of personal
esteem and friendship, but also to express my deep admiration for his genius and his work.
The two men remained good friends, and in later years when Wallace was in financial
difficulties because of poor investments, Darwin petitioned the government for a civil
service pension that permitted Wallace to live in modest comfort for the rest of his life.
Wallace was later one of Darwins pall-bearers.
was quite content to remain at home in Victorian England ;he had traveled enough. The only
significant trip he made was that of a lecture tour in the United States. This was a
scientific and financial success. In the course of it he had a short meeting with
President Grover Cleveland, but was not impressed. As for the United States, he had mixed
feelings, admiring the American inventiveness and love of nature, but worried about what
money was doing to the country and society.
home, he continued with his writing and with his botanizing, taking long walking trips
with his wife. He also maintained an active interest in socialism, public education, womens
rights, phrenology and a multitude of other causes. In old age, honors gradually came to
him, always at the urging of others. These included the Founders Medal of the Royal
Geographic Society and the Gold Medal of the Societe de Geographie de Paris. He was
awarded honorary doctorates from Oxford and the University of London. The Linnean Society
created a Darwin-Wallace Medal and made
Wallace the first recipient.
suffered intermittently from recurrent malaria and tropical boils but continued to be
physically active and mentally aggressive into old age. He published a book at ninety and
had two more planned. On November 7th, 1913, two months short of his
ninety-first birthday and nearly sixty years after he sailed for the Malay Archipelago, he
died quietly in his sleep.