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The book begins with Wallace's 12 years of often harrowing travels in the Western and Eastern Tropics, which place him in the pantheon of the greatest explorer-naturalists of the nineteenth century. It traces step by step his discovery of natural selection and then follows the remaining 50 years of his life. In addition to his divergence from Darwin on two fundamental issues - sexual selection and the origin of the human mind - he pursued topics that most scientific figures of his day avoided, including environmentalism and the possibility of life on Mars.
IntroductionOrigins of a HereticThe Struggle for ExistenceA Daring PlanTravels on the AmazonAnd the Rio NegroDisaster at Sea... and a Civilized InterludeThe Malay ArchipelagoThe Mechanism RevealedBeautiful DreamerA Turn Toward the UnknowableThe Olympian Heights and the Beginnings of the FallWallace and The Descent of ManThe Descent of WallaceThe War on SpiritualismPhoenix from the AshesTo the Land of Epidemic DelusionsThe New NemesisThoroughly Unpopular CausesSatisfaction, Retrospection, and WorkA National Treasure CelebratedBiographical Index
Ross A. Slotten is a scholar of Alfred Russel Wallace. He lives in Chicago.
"Slotten does a very good job of contextualizing this critical moment in the history of biology within the life and times of Wallace [...] Slotten's enjoyable exposition provides insight into the scientific process and the role of class structure in Victorian England."
– Publishers Weekly
"Slotten's meticulously researched biography explores Wallace's scientifically 'heretical' interests in a bunch of late Victorian 'isms,' that range from socialism to spiritualism and extraterrestrial life."
– Douglas Palmer, New Scientist
"Slotten's text recounts [Wallace's] life in great detail, giving as much emphasis to his early life and later years as to his time as a collector and naturalist. If a library can support only one book, Slotten's provides the richness of the complete life."
– Library Journal
"Slotten's new life study illuminates an unpredictable genius who cut a wide swath in Victorian culture [...] But Slotten surpasses earlier biographers in detailing the complex personal relationship between the two biologists."
– Booklist, starred review
"[...] quite accessible to general audiences [...]"
– Michele Fabricant, Science Books & Films
"That sympathy, Slotten's predilection for quirky details, and his talent for imaginative investigation often make Wallace and his world spring to life."
– Menno Schilthuizen, Natural History
"This is a good, old-fashioned, beautifully written biography, devoid of pretension and with both a wonderful eye for detail and an impressive command of history and fact."
– Oren Solomon Harman, American Scientist
"fine picks for modern college-level collections."
"Slotten's book is the most detailed study of its kind published to date and provides a vivid account of Wallace's rich 90-year life."
– George Beccaloni, Nature
"This biography revives the remarkable work of this world explorer and naturalist."
"Slotten's book is a pleasure to read and provides a well-researched and detailed account [...] It is highly recommended reading."
– D. Futuyma, Evolution
"A highly readable and entertaining account of the life, travels, and thought of one of the nineteenth century's most eccentric and insightful scientists."
– Northeastern Naturalist
"Excellent job of profiling the man's life."
– Charles H. Smith, European Molecular Biology and Organization
"Well-crafted biography [...] highly recommended."
"Six full biographies of Wallace have been published since 2000 [...] and this latest is the most complete."
– Charles H. Smith, Journal of the History of Biology
"The 20 chapters in Slotten's book brilliantly explore the different facets of Wallace."
– Allen Keast, Quarterly Review of Biology
"Keen eye and easy style"
– David A. Feller, Bulletin of the Pacific Circle
"Slotten's biography [...] offers a balanced and thorough account of Wallace's long and varied career."
– Jane R. Camerini, Reports of the National Center for Science Education