Ref NoMS/140a
TitleMiscellaneous correspondence - Alfred Russel Wallace
AdminHistoryAlfred Russel Wallace (1823 - 1913) was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin's writings in 1858.

Wallace was born in Kensington Cottage near Usk, Monmouthshire, England on 8 January 1823 to Thomas Vere Wallace and Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell), the eighth of nine children, three of whom did not survive to adulthood. In 1828 the family moved to Hertford and Wallace attended Hale's Grammar School. In c. 1835 the family's financial situation took a turn for the worse. As a result, Wallace was forced to leave school at age 14 and go and live with his older brother, John, who was working in London as a carpenter. By 1837 Wallace moved to Bedfordshire to live and work with his eldest brother, William, who owned a land-surveying company. In 1841 the brothers moved to Neath, Wales, where Wallace began to develop an interest in natural history. In 1843, following a decrease in the amount of surveying work available, Wallace applied to the Collegiate School in Leicester where he taught drafting, surveying, English, and arithmetic.

In 1847 - 1848 Wallace suggested to his friend, Henry Walter Bates, that they travel to Brazil to collect specimens of birds, insects and other animals which they can sell to collectors and for their own private collections. Wallace had been inspired by W. H. Edward's book 'A Voyage Up the River Amazon'. He also wanted to look in to the theory of evolution, which he had become interested in after reading Robert Chambers' anonymously published book 'Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation', which discussed the theory of evolution (then known as transmutation). The two men set off by ship from Liverpool to Pará (Belém) on the 26 April 1848, arriving on the 28 May. After only a few months they decided to collect in different areas with Wallace focussing his activities in the middle Amazon and Rio Negro. Whilst there he produced a map of this mighty river using the skills he had learnt as a land surveyor which was later published by the Royal Geographical Society. In 1852 Wallace decided to return to Britain due to ill health but a fire on the return ship home meant that the majority of his notes and specimens were destroyed. Wallace and his crew were rescued after 10 days of drifting on the open sea.

In 1854 Wallace went on a second collecting expedition to the Malay Archipelago (now Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and East Timor) with a young assistant, Charles Allen. Wallace spent nearly eight years in the region, undertaking sixty or seventy separate journeys resulting in a combined total of around 14,000 miles of travel. He collected almost 110,000 insects, 7500 shells, 8050 bird skins, and 410 mammal and reptile specimens, including probably more than 5000 species new to science. In February 1855 Wallace wrote a paper called "Sarawak Law" which looked at the subject of evolution. In February 1858 the idea of natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change occurred to Wallace and he wrote a detailed essay explaining his theory. He sent this, along with a covering letter, to Charles Darwin, who he knew from correspondence was interested in the subject of evolution. Wallace asked Darwin to pass the essay on to Charles Lyell, an influential scientist of day, if Darwin thought it was sufficiently interesting. Darwin, who had been working on the same theory for the past 20 years, immediately sought advice from his friends, Lyella and Joseph Hooker. They decided to present Wallace's essay (without his knowledge), along with two unpublished excerpts from Darwin's writings on the subject, to a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 1 July 1858. These documents were published together in the Society's journal on 20 August of the same year as the paper "On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; And On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection".

Wallace returned to England 4 years later in 1862 and in the spring of 1866 he married Annie, the twenty-year-old daughter of his friend the botanist William Mitten. Two of their children, Violet and William, survived to adulthood, whilst a third (Herbert Spencer) died in infancy. He spent the rest of his life defending and promoting the theory of natural selection and working on a very wide variety of other subjects. He wrote more than 1000 articles and 22 books, the best known being The Malay Archipelago, The Geographical Distribution of Animals, Island Life and Darwinism. Honours awarded for the many important contributions he made to biology, geography, geology and anthropology include: the Gold Medal (Société de Géographie); the Founder's Medal (Royal Geographical Society); the Darwin-Wallace and Linnean Gold Medals (Linnean Society); the Copley, Darwin and Royal Medals (Royal Society); and the Order of Merit (the greatest honor that can be given to a civilian by the ruling British monarch).

He died at his home in Broadstone on 7 November 1913.
DescriptionCorrespondence of Alfred Russel Wallace relating to a range of subjects, including letters to E.T.Thiselton-Dyer, J.Sykes Gamble, and W.Mitten (Wallace's father-in-law).

Correspondents include:

JORDAN, K.
(To WALLACE)
1a. Tring. 1909 May 17. Encloses six coloured Papilio plates; Rothschild suggested he might be interested.

LATTER, OSWALD H. [Missing (filed elsewhere?)]
(To LIBRARIAN, Linnean Society)
1. Godalming. 1941 Nov 6. Encloses four letters from Wallace as a gift to the Society. [Letter Nos. 4-7. Ed.]

SLATER, MATTHEW B. - [Missing (filed elsewhere?)]
(To JACKSON, B.D., Nos. 2-3)
2. Malton. 1908 Sep 22. Cannot find source of paragraph in note sent by Jackson; will do his best to make further search in Bentham's Addresses.
3. Malton. 1908 Sep 25. Glad to hear the source has been found.

WALLACE, ALFRED RUSSELL.
(To JACKSON, B.D., Nos. 4-7)
4. Wimborne. 1908 Sep 12. Seeks date of Spruce's botanical work in S. America as mentioned in Bentham's Addresses to the Linn. Soc.
5. Wimborne. 1908 Sep 15. Has been in correspondence with Stabler who, being blind, cannot help in the search for the date; mentions possibilities.
6. Wimborne. 1908 Sep 16. About Spruce's writings in Martin's Flora of Brazil; are they in fact the letters to Hooker or Bentham?
7. Wimborne. 1908 Sep 21. Reference has been found by Cepp and by Britten, both at the British Museum

(To MITTEN, W., Nos. 8-13)
8. Grays. 1873 Mar 6. Congratulates him on his new line of comic botanical artist and his glorious acquisition of orchids; chatter.
9. Parkstone. 1894 Feb 8. encloses seeds; botanical chatter.
10. Parkstone. (No date) Encloses grass which he hopes Mitten can identify; puzzled about the Lathyrus Libthorpi; has received plants of the Chilian Puya.
11. Wimborne. 1902 Sep 27. Has received seeds from Cape Verde Islands; chatter.
12. Wimborne, 1905 Jul 18. Asks which year they first went to Wales together; and the year they went to Spa together.
13. Wimborne. 1905 Jul 25. Grateful for the information; Asks if Jackson, anywhere in England or Scotland, gathered a greater variery of mosses in one spot in one hour than at Pont-y-glyn.

(To GAMBLE, J.S., Nos. 14-22)
14. Wimborne. 1909 Jun 21. Asks about Phanerogams in the Malay Peninsular.
15. Wimborne. 1909 Jun 26. Does not wish Gamble to take special trouble on Wallace's account; asks only for the total number of species he estimates in the Malay Peninsular.
16. Wimborne. 1909 Jul 8. About the species in the Amazonia.
17. Wimborne. 1909 Aug 29. Grateful for Gamble's information about the Malay Peninsula; the species in Malacca.
18. Wimborne. 1910 Jun 12. Hooker mentioned ten natural orders for the Malay Peninsula; Gamble had given four with the numbers of the species; can he give numbers of the other six?
19. Wimborne. 1910 Jul 25. Yapp has sent him photographs of the Malayan Forest; he will forward them to Gamble who he hopes can provide the names of the more conspicuous of the plants represented.
20. Wimborne. 1910 Oct 7. Koorders has sent him Flora of N.E. Celebes; as in the Philippines it has Oaks and Dipterscarps; have either of these been recorded further east?
21. Wimborne. 1910 Oct 24. Would like to borrow the paper on Dipterocarpaceae by Brandis.
22. Wimborne. 1910 Nov 3. Returns the journal lent him by Gamble.

(To THISELTON-DYER, W.T., Nos. 23-33)
23. Pont-y-bryn. 1881 Jan 2. Grateful for letter and valuable notes; makes comments.
24. Pont-y-bryn. 1881 Jun 7. Has written the last chapter of his book; about the last chapter.
25. Parkstone. 1893 Jan 17. Modest comments on his election as FRS.
26. Parkstone. 1893 Sep 26. Sorry to hear of Romanes' illness; cannot understand why Romanes wishes to communicate with him; there is no friendship.
27. Wimborne. 1909 Jun 13. Has been in contact with Ray-Lankester about the method of listing species.
28. Wimborne. 1909 Jun 22. Darwin's Commemoration Volume and Thiselton-Dyer's paper on geographical distribution of plants.
29. Wimborne. 1909 Sep 1. Grateful for the article on Darwin but had to delay thanks because of severe eye inflamation that prevented him from reading or writing.
30. Wimborne. 1910 Dec 17. Encloses a copy of his book on Darwinism.
31. Wimborne. 1911 Feb 2. Grateful for Thiselton-Dyer's views on his book; about the contents
32. Broadstone. 1912 Dec 4. Chatter about geologists and zoologists.
33. Broadstone. 1914 Jul 6. Thanks Thiselton-Dyer for the letters sent him; tells what he intends to do with them.
Date1873-1914
LevelFile
Extent33 letters
LanguageEnglish
Related Material MS/140b, MS/140c, MS/140d, MS/140e, MS/140f, MS/176,
Creator NameWallace, Alfred Russel
Access_StatusOpen
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