Sometimes referred to as the father of biogeography, Alfred Russel Wallace is known as the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution through natural selection. A prolific author, he wrote extensively in the fields of zoology, botany, anthropology, politics and astronomy. Although he had a number of somewhat eccentric beliefs, which rendered him unpopular in certain circles, he is recognized as one of the leading figures in nineteenth-century British science.
Patrick Armstrong describes Wallace's long life – born in 1823, Wallace died on the eve of the First World War – and shows him to be, in many ways, a more interesting character than his fellow scientist Charles Darwin. This compact yet comprehensive biography takes a psychological approach, attempting to provide an insight into a man who was, for much of his life, plagued with misfortune: legal problems, extreme difficulty in obtaining full-time employment, and relationship troubles all vexed him. This critical biography unlocks the life of a restless traveller who, although obtaining only an 'ordinary' education, became one of the most influential scientists of his time.
1 Early Life
2 South American Journey
3 Eight Years in Southeast Asia
4 The Natural Selection Insight and Its Aftermath
5 The Maturing Scientist
6 The Radical and the Heretic
7 To the End of the Universe
8 ‘A Contented Man’
9 Some Thoughts on Wallace’s Mind and Character
"The book is well illustrated, comprehensive and is presented in a direct and readable manner, displaying clearly the many sides of Wallace's scientific career. The author gives us an enjoyably fascinating journey through Wallace's life story, noting that "Wallace['s] attributes were supreme courage and persistence, almost to the point of foolishness." Perhaps, reading here of the massive contribution Wallace made to scientific knowledge, we might conclude that we all need to display a little foolishness from time to time!"
– Magonia Review of Books
"Patrick Armstrong is well placed to explain the importance of Wallace's contribution to the development of biogeography [...] He is a passionate advocate for Wallace and his contribution to science"
– Isis Journal