Join biologist and Wallace scholar Prof. James T. Costa, PhD, in marking the bicentennial of the birth of explorer, naturalist, and humanitarian Alfred Russel Wallace!
Nineteenth-century poet Walt Whitman declared in Song of Myself that he “contained multitudes”, a largeness of spirit, perspectives, beliefs, and interests so expansive that there was room within even for contradictions. He may well have been singing of his contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace. Perhaps the most famed naturalist of the Victorian age by the end of his long life in 1913, Wallace’s expeditions to remote Amazonia and southeast Asia became the stuff of legend: a collector of thousands of species new to science, he shared in the discovery of natural selection with Darwin and founded the field of evolutionary biogeography.
Yet Wallace also courted controversy with nonscientific pursuits from spiritualism to socialism, becoming the archetypal socially engaged scientist tirelessly campaigning for land and labor reform, women’s rights, and more. James T. Costa celebrates the complex and “multitudinous” Wallace in Radical by Nature, his new biography to mark the Wallace bicentennial. At 200, Alfred Russel Wallace continues to inspire and instruct.
James T. Costa is professor of biology and executive director of the Highlands Biological Station at Western Carolina University. His books include Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory; Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species; and The Annotated “Origin.” He is a recipient of the Alfred Russel Wallace Medal and other honors.