Alfred Russel Wallace and Indonesia Nancy M. Lutz

Alfred Russel Wallace and Indonesia
Nancy M. Lutz
Format/equipment: Scholarly paper with accompanying PowerPoint
Abstract: Most people associate the theory of evolution with the work of Charles
Darwin. Less well known is that another British naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace,
independently developed ideas very similar to Darwin’s. Wallace, in fact, sent a draft of
his ideas about evolution by natural selection to Darwin before Darwin had published his
own theory. Ultimately, the two papers were presented together, although Wallace
remained in the shadow of the better-known Darwin. Further, although many people are
aware of the importance of the Galapagos Islands to the development of Darwin’s ideas,
fewer are aware of the similar importance to Wallace’s ideas of the islands of Indonesia
and Malaysia. Biologists and Indonesianists are aware of the ‘Wallace Line’ separating
the Asian-influenced western islands of Indonesia from the Australian-influenced eastern
islands, but Wallace’s work and significance extend well beyond the ‘Wallace Line’. This
paper examines the role of the Indonesian islands, and of Wallace’s experiences there, to
the development of his ideas about natural diversity and evolution.