Quotes about Wallace

By George Beccaloni

Remarks About Wallace by the Great and the Good

Thomas Henry Huxley, who was sparing with his compliments, once wrote, “Once in a generation, a Wallace may be found physically, mentally, and morally qualified to wander unscathed through the tropical wilds of America and of Asia; to form magnificent collections as he wanders; and withal to think out sagaciously the conclusions suggested by his collections...” [Source: Huxley, T. H. (1863). Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. London: Williams & Norgate. 159 pp.]

Joseph Hooker in his address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1868 referred to Wallace as "...that champion of natural selection, Mr. Darwin's true knight..." and went on to say "But of Mr. Wallace and his many contributions to philosophical biology, it is not easy to speak without enthusiasm; for, putting aside their great merits, he, throughout his writings, with a modesty as rare as I believe it to be in him unconscious, forgets his own unquestioned claims to the honour of having originated, independently of Mr. Darwin, the theories which he so ably defends."

Mahatma Gandhi once said "Civilizations have come and gone, and in spite of all our vaunted progress, I am tempted to ask again and again, ‘To what purpose?’ Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, has said the same thing. Fifty years of brilliant inventions and discoveries, he has said, have not added one inch to the moral height of mankind." [Source: Tendulkar, D. G. (Ed.). 1960.Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 2nd edition, Vol. 2. Delhi : Pubs. Div., Min. of Inform. and Broadcasting, Govt. of India: 29]

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who greatly admired Wallace, once remarked "How I wished that I had the brain of a Russel Wallace and could read more clearly the illuminated page of Nature." [https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Our_Second_American_Adventure]

Charles Sanders Peirce, American philosopher and "the father of pragmatism", said about Wallace: "Not quite a typical man of science is Wallace: not a man who observes and studies only because he is eager to learn, because he is conscious that his actual conceptions and theories are inadequate, and he feels a need of being set right; nor yet one of those men who are so dominated by a sense of the tremendous importance of a truth in their possession that they are borne on to propagate it by all means that God and nature have put into their hands--no matter what, so long as it be effective. He is rather a man conscious of superior powers of sound and solid reasoning, which enable him to find paths to great truths that other men could not, and also to put the truth before his fellows with a demonstrative evidence that another man could not bring out; and along with this there is a moral sense, childlike in its candor, manly in its vigor, which will not allow him to approve anything illogical or wrong, though it be upon his own side of a question which stirs the depths of his moral nature. One cannot help entertaining a great esteem for him, even when he is most in earnest and at his isms." [Source: Peirce, C. 1901. The Nation, 72: 36]

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