Teaching Science through History

Alfred Russel Wallace & the Origin of Species

by Ami Friedman (with contributions from Douglas Allchin)

Alfred Russel WallaceMost people are familiar with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. We frequently hear of Darwin's travels on the H.M.S. Beagle and his book On the Origin of Species. Some may even know about the influence of Lyell and Malthus on his thinking. However, historians also credit Alfred Russel Wallace with developing a theory on the origin of species independently. This case study focuses on Wallace's story, highlighting his middle class background, his career as a collector, and the observations and experience that led to his own insights.

NOS features include:

  • diversity in scientific thinking
  • the role of personal motives of scientists
  • the importance of personal experiences and relationships of scientists
  • funding
  • communication in developing and presenting a theory
  • priority and credit

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