Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species

James T. Costa. Harvard Univ, $39.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-674-72969-8
Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace independently discovered natural selection, a mechanism explaining the diversity of life on Earth, and Costa, professor of biology at Western Carolina University, explores how such a momentous discovery could have arisen from two people at roughly the same time as well as what we can learn from those similarities. “Wallace and Darwin labored along strikingly similar paths as they gathered evidence for transmutation, often making the same sorts of observations, consulting many of the same authorities, and crafting many of the same pro-transmutation arguments.” By exploring these points, he lays to rest the conspiracy theories promoting the belief that Darwin stole Wallace’s idea and took it as his own. Costa also counters those who have claimed that Wallace was a scientific lightweight who stumbled onto one important concept. Indeed, he details the evolutionary thinking and writing of both Wallace and Darwin during the critical period leading up to the joint publication of their theory of natural selection by the Linnean Society of London in 1858. (A significant portion of the text presents an annotated version of this publication.) Repetitions aside, Costa impressively demonstrates the inductive process both scientists utilized and how each made major and lasting contributions to modern science. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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