Question: Hi Alison, I enjoyed your Xmas lectures; the demonstrations brought clarity to the subject, though I was curious why you didn’t mention Wallace when discussing natural selection. I know you were limited for time but I think poor old Alfred has had a raw deal from history, and a brief mention in the Xmas lecture might have turned youngsters to his incredible adventures in the far east. He probably had a tougher time than Darwin.. I’m a retired science teacher, and I still work for the OU,

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  1. Oh that’s a great question – thanks so much @johnmccue. Alfred Russel Wallace was in the script for much of the development phase of the lectures but was cut in the end due to time constraints. We would loved to have staged a conversation between Wallace and Darwin in the light box! The only reference to Wallace left in was far too subtle – I said something like “Darwin was galvanised into publishing…” and meant that Darwin was worried about the competition from Wallace and thought he should get on with publishing the Origin. Wallace’s story is absolutely fascinating. A gifted and brilliant naturalist, he wasn’t born with Darwin’s financial advantages and this almost certainly held back his work. A co-discoverer of natural selection he certainly was, though theories that Darwin stole some of Wallace’s ideas have been discredited by historians. Indeed, Darwin appears to have been a great supporter of Wallace and they always stayed on friendly terms. Darwin seems to have been instrumental in getting Wallace a government pension in his later years. Definitely worth reading about his adventures in the Far East!



  1. Hi Alison, thanks very much for your reply. Sorry, yes, I do remember you saying that Darwin was prompted, and it was nice, as you say, that Wallace and Darwin held each other in such high esteem – all the more reason for calling it the Darwin-Wallace theory of natural selection! Didn’t he send Darwin his work by post from Malaya? Best wishes. John.