“Forgotten father” of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace is celebrated at last

While his colleague Charles Darwin is revered as one of the greatest British scientists ever to have lived, Alfred Russel Wallace never became a household name. Many believe the 19th century scientist, who may have even coined the phrase ‘origin of species’ which became the title of Darwin’s earth-shattering theory, could be regarded as the ‘forgotten father’ of evolution.

He also came up with the concept of warning colouration in animals, and the Wallace effect, a hypothesis on how species evolved. Wallace also did extensive fieldwork, first in the Amazon River basin and then in the Malay Archipelago, where he identified the Wallace Line that divides the Indonesian archipelago into two distinct parts. The work of Wallace is now finally set to be celebrated, 100 years after his death, in a series of events at the Natural History Museum in London.

A portrait of the scientist is to be unveiled in the museum’s Central Hall close to the famous statue of Darwin by comedian and naturalist Bill Bailey tomorrow, and the museum will put an archive of Wallace’s correspondence online, as well as displaying some of his most important specimens. The Natural History Museum’s Wallace 100 programme was organised to mark the centenary of his death in 1913 and put the biologist back in the spotlight.

Both Wallace and Darwin shared authorship of the scientific article that first proposed the theory of natural selection in 1858, a year before Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species came out and secured a place in history. Wallace independently came up with the idea of natural selection and founded the science of evolutionary biogeography – the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals….

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