Scientists, Science and Society

Speaker: Professor Niels Jacob

Lecture title: Alfred Russell Wallace – Naturalist. Stations of His Life and Highlights of His Scientific Achievements

Date: 26 April  

Time: 5.15pm to 6.30pm

Venue: Wallace Lecture Theatre, Wallace Building, Swansea University

Admission: Free and welcome to all

Lecture Summary:

Being a scientist in the British Empire during Darwin’s time meant essentially being a “gentleman scientist”, i.e. a person living from his (or his wife’s) wealth a private life in public, not depending on a position, say at a university (and in England there were only two universities in those days).

Alfred Russell Wallace (1823 – 1914) was no gentleman scientist but a surveyor born in a cottage on the banks of the river Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales. He earned his means for travelling and research by collecting trophies, mainly birds, for collectors, i.e. gentlemen. As naturalist, observer and collector he surpassed most of his contemporaries. His books “The Geographical Distribution of Animals” and “Island Life” laid the foundations of geo-zoology, or in the words of E.O. Wilson transformed the subject into a science. The Wallace – Line is a further witness of his achievements as geo-biologist. Nowadays however, Wallace is best remembered as co-discoverer of natural selection as mechanism of evolution.

There is another side of his personality, his sometimes surprising and strange thoughts about society which we can only understand as product of the late Victorian era.

The talk is an invitation to a journey with a travelling naturalist through his life and times. It starts a series of events organised by the College of Science to pay tribute to the man who gave his name to our main building and who died 100 years ago.

Contact: To book a place or for further information please email: n.jacob@swansea.ac.uk