14 May 2008

On 12 May The Times published an naive and derogatory article about Wallace by biochemist Terence Kealey (to see it click here ). I responded by writing a letter to the editor of The Times, but since they did not publish it, I reproduce it here instead:-

"Sir, I am not sure what book Terence Kealey (Science Notebook, May 12) has been reading, because the impression myself and others have formed of Wallace after reading The Malay Archipelago, is of a man of great resilience and incurable optimism - certainly not the 'whinging Brit' Kealey describes! Kealey (in common with most people today) does not appear to appreciate the breadth and depth of Wallace's many contributions to the biological sciences. He was one of the two principle architects of modern evolutionary biology (Darwin being the other), thanks to his many original theories and his stalwart defence of natural selection.

Another thing Kealey doesn't seem to realise is that during Wallace's lifetime he was extremely well known - at the time of his death in 1913 he was probably one of the most famous people in the world. Reasons why Wallace was overshadowed after his death by Darwin are complex but are probably largely due to the 'Darwin Industry' of recent decades, as myself and Vincent Smith recently pointed out in the journal Nature. I guess it is appropriate to call Wallace "Mr Pooter" since he was certainly good at 'hoovering up' insects specimens (a pooter being an entomological suction device) - in fact he was one of the most important and prolific insect collectors of all time."

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith