THE HERETIC IN DARWIN'S COURT: The Life of Alfred Russel Wallace

Ross A. Slotten, Author . Columbia Univ. $39.50 (602p) ISBN 978-0-231-13010-3

In 1858, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913), a self-educated British naturalist collecting specimens in the Malay Archipelago, sent a brief manuscript to Charles Darwin outlining the concept of natural selection and explaining its important role in the creation of new species. Darwin, who had been working on this topic for 20 years but had not yet published anything, feared that Wallace's paper would take precedence over all of his own earlier work. In fact, Darwin's scientific allies arranged for a joint presentation of his ideas alongside Wallace's to the Linnean Society of London while Darwin rushed to complete On the Origin of Species . Physician and amateur historian Slotten does a very good job of contextualizing this critical moment in the history of biology within the life and times of Wallace. He demonstrates that Wallace was a brilliant, complex man and argues persuasively that Wallace never resented Darwin's receiving much more credit for the theory of natural selection than he did. Wallace, perhaps more than Darwin, took on all comers and was an articulate and forceful spokesman for natural selection. But, as Slotten shows, he was very much interested in other causes as well. As a socialist, he was an ardent proponent of social justice, working for land reform (he was himself from the lower classes). He believed in spiritualism, was against smallpox vaccination and, to the chagrin of many scientists, claimed that human intelligence was divinely inspired. Slotten's enjoyable exposition provides insight into the scientific process and the role of class structure in Victorian England. Illus., maps. (July)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Show other formats
Paperback - 602 pages - 978-0-231-13011-0
Open Ebook - 640 pages - 978-1-282-87189-2
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.