2008 events

By George Beccaloni

There are actually three important 150th anniversaries which could be celebrated in 2008: Wallace's independent discovery of natural selection in February 1858; the public announcement of his and Darwin's theories at the Linnean Society on the 1st July 1858; and the publication of Darwin and Wallace's papers on the 20th August 1858.

Traditionally, it is the 1st July anniversary which has been celebrated - the 50th and 100th anniversaries being big events (see here). Unfortunately, current indications are that the 150th anniversary of the great discovery will be relatively low-key - probably because most organisations are gearing up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin's Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009. If you decide to buck the trend and organise an event, then please let me know and I will add it to this page.

*2008 events*


Royal Geographical Society, London:
Monday 31st at 18.30

RGS-IBG Balloted lecture Members only
Talk entitled "Wallace and the birds of paradise"

Sir David Attenborough

David shows film footage and describes the various species that so obsessed Alfred Russel Wallace, who was the first European to see the display of the spectacular birds of paradise. Please note that this lecture is balloted. One ticket entry per member. Entries can be submitted by post only, using the ballot application form on page 26 of the Bulletin. Closing date for applications is Monday 3 March.


Talks by Prof. Steve Jones in Wales

The Radnorshire Museum, Llandrindod Wells, Wales, plans to display an impressive oil painting of Wallace by Thomas Sims (on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, London) from Saturday, 24th May until Sunday, 13th July. Steve Jones is to give a talk at 4.30p.m. on the 24th May at the Museum, and the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust has invited Prof. Jones to speak at Llandewi Village Hall later on that same day.


Natural History Museum, London

Tuesday 1st July at 12.30

Talk entitled "Darwin, Wallace and the Discovery of Natural Selection"

by George Beccaloni & Jo Cooper in the Nature Live series, to celebrate the 150th reading of the Darwin-Wallace paper on this date.

Natural History Museum, London

Friday 27th June - 28th July (in Dinosaur Way in the cabinet opposite the Human Biology Gallery)

Exhibition entitled "Happy Birthday Natural Selection" which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the reading of the Darwin-Wallace papers. This small display features important documents relating to the discovery of natural selection, including an original copy of the 1858 Darwin-Wallace paper. It also includes a bird of paradise collected by Wallace and pigeon bones prepared by Darwin, showing the differences between the way these two men worked.

Linnean Society of London
On July 1st an event will take place at the Linnean Society to mark the reading of the papers by Darwin and Wallace on that day 150 years ago. There will be talks by Gareth Nelson and Alan Orr.

National Botanic Garden of Wales
The Botanic Garden is planning to celebrate Wallace Day on July 1st with a series of events. Theatr na n’Og will present their new one-man play ‘You Should Ask Wallace’, performed by Ioan Hefin and written and directed by Geinor Styles. This outdoor performance will focus on the aspects of Wallace’s inspirational character that led him to think up the idea of evolution by natural selection.

There will be performances of this 30-minute play in the Wallace Garden at 10.45am, 12 noon and 1.15pm for GCSE and ‘A’ Level syllabus students. There will also be a special 3pm performance for invited guests. Other performances will take place: Wednesday, July 2, 10.45am and noon for schools only; Thursday, July 3, and Friday, July 4, 10.45am, noon and 1.15pm performances for schools, 3pm performance for garden visitors; and, Saturday, July 5, noon, 1.15pm and 3pm performances for garden visitors.

At 2pm, we will be launching Fred Langford Edward's exhibition on Wallace in the Garden’s Courtyard Gallery, after which Anne Cluysenaar will read from her illustrated poem-sequence Batu-Angas: Envisioning Nature with Alfred Russel Wallace (new out from Seren). Fred's exhibition, The Forgotten Evolutionist, consists of photographs and installations based on the natural history specimens collected by Wallace in the Amazon and the Far East. The exhibition will run from July 1st to July 24th.

Special guests for the day will be Wallace's grandson, Richard Wallace and his wife.

University of Valencia, Spain

An event will take place at 8 PM on July 1st, at the Botanical Garden of the University to mark the publication of a book containing a Catalan translation of the Darwin-Wallace 1858 paper, together with some letters and the text of a lecture given by Wallace in 1908. This compilation is a small volume in the Classics of Thought series. The complete reference of the book is: C. R. Darwin & A. R. Wallace: "La lluita per la vida", Col. Breviaris núm. 20, Publicacions de la Universitat de València (PUV, 2008).

Institut fuer Spezielle Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie mit Phyletischem Museum, Jena, Germany
On Tuesday 1st July the Phyletisches Museum will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1908 by Ernst Haeckel, the most prominent promoter of evolutionary theory in Germany.  An exhibition entitled "Understanding Evolution" will be officially opened and at 18:00 the Darwin-Wallace papers on natural selection will be read by actors to mark the 150th anniversary of their reading at the Linnean Society in 1858.

Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, England
Information received anout this event reads "On 1 July 1858, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace first presented their theories on evolution. Join us for a recreation of this event and a lively debate on how Darwin has affected our lives. This lecture is free but has to be booked. Please call 0161 275 2648."


The Broadway Theatre, Peterborough

Saturday, August 16.

Sir David Attenborough will deliver a lecture on a subject that is particularly close to his heart: the birds of paradise of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia: a passion he shares with Wallace. This talk will focus on these fascinating birds and on Wallace, one of the country's earliest environmentalists.

Tickets, costing £20 for adults and £15 for children aged under 16, are available by calling 01733 316100, or online at www.thebroadwaytheatre.co.uk

Belém, Brazil

August 25-29

There will be a "Homage to Alfred Russel Wallace" session during a Workshop for the Popularisation of Science & Technology in Amazon (II Workshop de Difusão e Popularização de Ciência e Tecnologia na Amazônia). See http://www.cultura.ufpa.br/labdemon/2wdpcta_homenagem.htm


The Sessions House, Usk

Sunday, September 21st.

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE DAY:- A celebration of the 150th anniversary of the joint presentation by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace of their papers on evolution by natural selection (Linnaean Society, July 1, 1858). Events will include: an exhibition of photographs by Fred Langford Edwards of Wallace specimens, most from collections not open to the general public; a talk by Fred Langford Edwards on the research he is undertaking in Britain and the tropics with the support of a Wellcome Trust award; a talk by Prof.David Collard on Wallace as an economic and social reformer; a reading by Anne Cluysenaar at the launch by the publisher Seren of her illustrated poem-sequence entitled Batu-Angas: Envisioning Nature with Alfred Russel Wallace. The day will conclude with a visit, if desired, to the recently erected Wallace Memorial, a fossiliferous stone positioned near Wallace's birthplace on the banks of the river Usk. 

Further details and booking forms:

Anne Cluysenaar at anne.cluysenaar@googlemail.com

or Stella Collard at stellacollard@yahoo.co.uk


Digswell Lake Society
October 10th at 19.30
A talk entitled "Alfred Russel Wallace and other Hertfordshire Naturalists"
Presented by RevD Tom Gladwin

Venue: Digswell Village Hall, Harmer Green Lane, Digswell, Herts

Admission: £1.00

Natural History Museum at Tring, Hertfordshire
Monday 13 October – Sunday 18 January

"Wallace, Darwin and Evolution"

Don’t miss this rare display of original specimens and documents from two of Britain’s greatest scientists. Find out how Alfred Russel Wallace, educated in Hertford, jointly discovered the theory of natural selection and why Darwin’s pigeons contributed more than finches to his study of evolution.

For more information see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/tring/whats-on/index.html


Hager Auditorium, Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana, USA

November 5, 7:00 pm
"The Man Who Wasn't Darwin: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Founding of Evolutionary Biology"

A lecture by well known science writer David Quammen

Free, seating is limited (first come first serve)

Linnean Society of London

Saturday 22nd

There will be a one day conference on Wallace at the Linnean Society:- the venue where Darwin and Wallace's seminal papers first proposing evolution by natural selection were read in July 1858. The speakers are:- Prof. Charles Smith (Western Kentucky Uni.); Prof. David Collard (Bath Uni.); Roy Davies (London College of Communication); Prof. Peter Raby (Cambridge Uni.), and Dr George Beccaloni (The Natural History Museum, London). The meeting will be chaired by Prof. Aubrey Manning (Edinburgh Uni.) and it is being organised by the Scientific & Medical Network. To download a leaflet (which includes a booking form) CLICK HERE. There are only 90 places available, so if you want to attend then book soon!

The event will also see the launch of a new book about Wallace entitled Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace, which has been co-edited by Charles Smith and George Beccaloni. It will be published by Oxford University Press in November just before the conference. This rich collection of writings by more than twenty historians and scientists reviews and reflects on the work that made Wallace famous in his own time, and a figure of extraordinary influence and continuing interest today. For more information see:- http://www.oup.com/uk/catalogue/?ci=9780199239160

The event will also feature an exhibition of wonderful artistic photographs of some of Wallace's biological specimens, letters and drawings by artist Fred Langford Edwards. A sample of 50 of Fred's images has recently been put on this website - please CLICK HERE and HERE.


Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia

December 10th - 13th

LETTER FROM TERNATE 1858: This four day conference celebrates the 150th anniversary of Wallace's independent discovery of natural selection in Indonesia. It is being hosted by the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI), The Wallacea Foundation, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and Conservation International Indonesia. The event will feature a number of invited speakers from around the world, and talks will range from historical accounts of Wallace's discoveries in Indonesia to lectures about the biodiversity of Wallacea. Artist Fred Edwards will be sending over from the UK a special exhibition of his stunning photographs of specimens collected by Wallace whilst in 'The Malay Archipelago'.

For more information about the conference CLICK HERE.

Enquiries about the conference should be sent to wallaceconf@eijkman.go.id


In September 2007 artist Fred Langford Edwards won a Wellcome Trust Small Arts Award for a project entitled “Alfred Russel Wallace - The Forgotten Evolutionist”. Fred will work together with George Beccaloni to research and explore the contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace to biology. Fred will create artworks, installations, and exhibitions supported by an illustrated catalogue. The works will explore the life, ideas, and surviving collections of Wallace, and the physical hardships he endured during his travels. For more information and a sneak preview of some of Fred's images see this page.


1) In May 2008 Roy Davies published a book entitled The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime This 'heretical' book claims that Darwin stole ideas from Wallace and others, and that he lied about the dates he received key letters from Wallace. For more info. click here .

2) Charles Smith and I have co-edited a collection of contributed essays entitled Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace, which will be published by Oxford University Press in November 2008. There will be book launches at the Linnean Society, London and in Singapore in November.

Cover of Smith & Beccaloni

3) I have arranged for a fascimile of Wallace's famous 1865 paper "On the Phenomena of Variation and Geographical Distribution as Illustrated by the Papilionidae of the Malayan Region" to be published later this year by Borneo Books. It will have introductory material by myself, Prof. James Mallet and Dr Richard Vane-Wright.

4) National Geographic Magazine are planning a 26-30 page feature article on Wallace which will be published in their December issue. It is being written by the excellent science writer David Quammen and the photography will be by Robert Clark. I had the pleasure to work with both gentlemen for several days each in March.

David quammen at Wallace's grave
David Quammen writing notes about Wallace's grave in March, 2008. Copyright G. Beccaloni.

5) The Linnean Society of London plans to publish a special issue of The Linnean containing articles about Darwin and Wallace and the discovery of natural selection to mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery. The publication of this has unfortunately been delayed until early 2009, thus missing the 150th anniversary year.

6) An article about Wallace and the time he spent in Brazil will be published in the Brazilian magazine Aventuras da Historia.

7) In June a wonderful collection of poems about Wallace was published by Usk-based poet Anne Cluysenaar in a book called Batu-Angas: Envisioning Nature with Alfred Russel Wallace. All profits will be donated to the WWF. To read the first poem click here. [Thanks Anne for dedicating it to me!]
Click here for information on how to order a copy

8) A book entitled Wallace in the Amazon (but in Portuguese!) (editors I. C. Moreira and L. Massarani) will probably be published by the Editora da Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ) in 2008. It will contain papers, notes and letters about Wallace's trip to Brazil.

9) The first translation into Portuguese of Wallace's book Palm Trees of the Amazon and their Uses will be published by the EDUA (Editora da Universidade Federal do Amazonas) in 2008.

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