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Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species

By: James T Costa (Author), Andrew Berry (Contributor)

331 pages, 7 b/w photos, 35 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 7 tables

Harvard University Press

Hardback | Jun 2014 | #211287 | ISBN-13: 9780674729698
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £29.95 $38/€36 approx

About this book

Charles Darwin is often credited with discovering evolution through natural selection, but the idea was not his alone. The naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, working independently, saw the same process at work in the natural world and elaborated much the same theory. Their important scientific contributions made both men famous in their lifetimes, but Wallace slipped into obscurity after his death, while Darwin's renown grew.

Dispelling the misperceptions that continue to paint Wallace as a secondary figure, James Costa reveals the two naturalists as true equals in advancing one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. Analyzing Wallace's Species Notebook, Costa shows how Wallace's methods and thought processes paralleled Darwin's, yet inspired insights uniquely his own. Kept during his Southeast Asian expeditions of the 1850s, the notebook is a window into Wallace's early evolutionary ideas. It records his evidence-gathering, critiques of anti-evolutionary arguments, and plans for a book on "transmutation." Most important, it demonstrates conclusively that natural selection was not some idea Wallace stumbled upon, as is sometimes assumed, but was the culmination of a decade-long quest to solve the mystery of the origin of species.

Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species also reexamines the pivotal episode in 1858 when Wallace sent Darwin a manuscript announcing his discovery of natural selection, prompting a joint public reading of the two men's papers on the subject. Costa's analysis of the Species Notebook shines a new light on these readings, further illuminating the independent nature of Wallace's discoveries.

"[Costa] convincingly navigates potentially treacherous terrain, setting the record straight on Wallace's great achievement, which independently foreshadowed Darwin's On the Origin of Species without in any way diminishing Darwin's 'insights and accomplishments.' [...] An illuminating, nuanced account of the parallel discovery of a theory still deemed controversial by some."
Kirkus Reviews

"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 [...] 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 [...] Costa impressively demonstrates the inductive process both scientists utilized and how each made major and lasting contributions to modern science."
Publishers Weekly

"Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) and Charles Darwin (1809–82) arrived at many of the same ideas about natural selection at almost precisely the same time while in correspondence with each other. Darwin's publication of his theories made him a legend, but Wallace has been mostly relegated to a footnote in the history books. Here Costa hopes to remedy that imbalance, recounting and analyzing Wallace's life and work with the ease and familiarity befitting one who edited and prepared the naturalist's previously unpublished Species Notebook. The author attempts to pin down Wallace's inner life and thought processes through painstaking textual analysis of his subject's reading material, correspondence, notebooks, and publications, as well as some of Darwin's."
– Kate Horowitz, Library Journal

"This engaging and very accessible book is the most comprehensive, insightful and well-balanced account of the development of Wallace's early evolutionary thinking ever written. Everyone with an interest in the history of evolutionary biology should read it. Although it does much to raise Wallace's profile, it does nothing to diminish Darwin's reputation or achievements."
– George Beccaloni, Curator of Orthopteroid Insects and Director of the A.R. Wallace Correspondence Project, Natural History Museum, London

"A marvelously fresh and clear explanation of the joint announcement of evolution by natural selection and an illuminating comparison of Wallace's and Darwin's theories. Throughout, Costa gives Wallace his biological due and more."
– Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science and Chair of the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University


Contents

    Alfred Russel Wallace: A Short Biography, by Andrew Berry
    Introduction

    1. Granted the Law: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Evolutionary Travels
    2. The Consilient Mr. Wallace: Transmutation and Related Themes of Wallace’s Species Notebook
    3. Wallace and Darwin: Parallels, Intersections, and Departures on the Evolutionary Road
    4. Two Indefatigable Naturalists: Wallace and Darwin’s Watershed Papers
    5. A Striking Coincidence: The Wallace and Darwin Papers of 1858 Compared
    6. True with a Vengeance: From Delicate Arrangement to Conspiracy: A Guide

    Coda: The Force of Admiration
    Appendixes
    Bibliography
    Acknowledgments
    Notes on the Text and Illustrations
    Index


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Biography

James T. Costa is Executive Director of Highlands Biological Station and Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University.

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