by Stuart Wakefield
Lecture by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski on his book “An Inordinate Fondness for
Beetles: Campfire Conversations with Alfred Russell Wallace”
The joint meeting attended by more than 50 MVM / MCG members and their guests was held at the Meritz condominium on 17-Oct-12. The author provided a fascinating overview of Wallace’s formative years and his self funded travels, both in Brazil and in the Malay Archipelago, during the 19th Century. It was evident that Wallace was more than an explorer cum naturalist, as he wrote many papers on subjects including ‘arrogance and the roles of ego and greed’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘why nature must be controlled which leads to its destruction’ and ‘our relationship with other species’. He also identified what became known as ‘the Wallace Line’, which separates Asia’s fauna and flora from that of Australia and has withstood the test of time.
Notwithstanding his many significant achievements, Wallace is often best remembered for independently developing his theory of natural selection. Wallace sent a copy of his paper to Charles Darwin who had arrived at virtually identical conclusions over a number of years, but had yet to circulate his writings beyond his close associates. Darwin was advised to publish without further delay and thereby gained considerable fame and a not insignificant fortune, whilst Wallace graciously sat on the sidelines. However, Darwin’s theory was by no means universally accepted by traditional Victorian thinkers, and he was subject to a degree of ridicule and contempt, which Wallace avoided.