A Wallace biography

5 Wallace’s publications

In 1855 Wallace wrote a paper ‘On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species’, often called the Sarawak Law. In it he noted that:

Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species.”

In June 1858 Wallace sent a letter to Charles Darwin with a manuscript entitled ‘On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type’.

Wallace had effectively summarised the views on natural selection and descent that Darwin had been contemplating. Wallace was at the far eastern end of the Malay Archipelago (Ternate) and so correspondence with Europe was slow. He was only later to find out that his work had been read before the Linnean Society and published alongside Darwin’s.

As Wallace said in his Acceptance Speech on Receiving the Darwin-Wallace Medal in 1908:

“Darwin and myself had, what he terms ‘the mere passion of collecting,’—not that of studying the minutiae of structure, either internal or external. I should describe it rather as an intense interest in the mere variety of living things – the variety that catches the eye of the observer even among those which are very much alike, but which are soon found to differ in several distinct characters.

Now it is this superficial and almost child-like interest in the outward forms of living things, which, though often despised as unscientific, happened to be the only one, which would lead us towards a solution of the problem of species.”

In 1869 Wallace published the two volumes of The Malay Archipelago. 

In 1876 he published The Geographical Distribution of Animals, in which he describes the variety of land animals living in the different zoogeographic realms of the world. (Full title: The Geographical Distribution of Animals; With a Study of the Relations of Living and Extinct Faunas as Elucidating the Past Changes of the Earth’s Surface. Volume I & II.)

In 1880 Wallace published Island Life. (Full title: Island Life: or, the Phenomena and Causes of Insular Faunas and Floras, Including a Revision and Attempted Solution of the Problem of Geological Climates.)

Zoogeographical regions: This map accompanies The Geographical Distribution of Animals (1876).

Media Attributions

  • Zoogeographical regions © A.R. Wallace is licensed under a Public Domain license


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