Wallace Day – you missed it
Yesterday was Darwin Day. It’s not officially recognised, yet, though some people here and in America would like it to be. There’s even talk of making it a public holiday, in recognition of Darwin and his work. But if 12th February is Darwin Day, the 8th January should be Wallace Day, in recognition of the equally important work done by Alfred Russel Wallace, who worked out the theory of Natural Selection as a young man in Indonesia. He sent his ideas to Charles Darwin, who’d been dithering about publishing his theory of Evolution. The realisation that Wallace could beat him to it prompted Darwin to do something with his ideas, after ten years of procrastination. Both of their papers were read to the Linnean Society in 1858. Since then, Darwin has had most of the credit for the theory of Evolution, while Wallace has been largely forgotten.
Now, to help put things right, the Natural History Museum in London has launched Wallace 100 – Celebrating Alfred Russel Wallace’s Life & Legacy. They have also hung his portrait next to the statue of Darwin in the main hall. About time.