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Alfred Russel Wallace is justly famous for his discoveries in Southeast Asia, from where he wrote to Charles Darwin outlining his theory of evolution by natural selection. His career as a tropical naturalist, however, began in the Amazon. Wallace concentrated his collecting on the Rio Negro and the Rio Vaupes and his collections and observations proved of great value to the scientific community in England. On his return home in 1852 disaster struck.
The ship on which he was travelling caught fire and all his precious collections were destroyed. As he fled the ship he managed to salvage a small tin box with a few delicate pencil drawings. Wallace's Amazonian adventure is told in Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon, using mainly his own words and illustrated with these delicate drawings. He went on to become one of the defining figures of Victorian biology, and this is the story of his beginning.
Origins of the Museum: Sir Hans Sloane and his collection
The Museum established: Montagu House
A new building: The Bloomsbury development
To South Kensington: The great divide
The collections: Building the treasurehouse
Exhibitions and education: Reaching the audience
Research: Unravelling mysteries
The digital age: Into the future
Sandra Knapp is a botanist at the Natural History Museum in London, who has written numerous books and scientific papers. She has spent many years collecting plants in tropical Central and South America and is an expert on the plant family Solanaceae, which includes such economically important species as the potato and tomato. Alfred Russel Wallace has always been one of her scientific heroes, and her personal discovery of his drawings in the Museum's Library prompted her to write this book.