On Thursday 7th November 2013, one hundred years to the day after the great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace died, a life-size bronze statue of him will be presented to the Natural History Museum in London by the Wallace Memorial Fund. This statue, the first ever made of Wallace, is the result of a fund-raising campaign started by George Beccaloni, Chairman of the Fund, in 2011. Numerous people and a few organisations (especially the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) have helped the campaign, notably the approximately 80 people who donated to the statue fund, and Chris Jenord and Mark Ribbands, who organised 'Wallace in Bristol' and 'Consensus? Science Talks' respectively to raise half of the money (the 'Consensus' event will take place on the 16th November at ExCel in London). A number of well-known celebrities generously gave their valuable time to participate in these events, including Richard Dawkins, Bill Bailey, Richard Fortey, Richard Wiseman and Quentin Cooper. Thanks to ALL who were and still are involved!
The statue has been expertly sculpted by Anthony Smith and will depict the moment when Wallace glimpsed the magnificent male of the golden birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera croesus) for the first time. His capture of this stunning creature (which was at that time a new species) on Bacan Island, Indonesia, in 1859 is described by him in his book The Malay Archipelago as follows:- "The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable, and none but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when I at length captured it. On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause."
In the afternoon of the 7th November at 16.15, the statue will be officially presented to the Museum by the Patron of the Wallace Memorial Fund, comedian Bill Bailey. It will then be unveiled by Sir David Attenborough. The unveiling will be in the atrium of the Darwin Centre 2 building and will be open to anyone who would like to attend. This will be an historic occasion! A few days later the statue will be moved to its pemanent position outside Darwin Centre 2, beside the Wildlife Garden.
If you decide to attend then I recommend you get in position at abut 16.00. Before the event you should try to see the Museum's Wallace Discovery Trail as there are some very special items on display and the Trail only runs until the 24th November. Pick up a leaflet about the trail at the Museum's reception desk. Also try to attend Theatr na n'Og's excellent play for all ages, 'You Should Ask Wallace' which will be performed in the Museum's Flett Lecture Theatre at 15.00. Free tickets are available HERE.