A "Central and Controlling Incident": Celebrating ‘The Malay Archipelago’ and the Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace

The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF, United Kingdom
Organiser: events@linnean.org
02074344479 ext 211

DAY MEETING 09:30–17:30 Thursday 7 November 2019

Wallace's Flying Frog
© Wallace Memorial Fund
Alfred Russel Wallace
© Wallace Memorial Fund

2019 is the 150th anniversary of Alfred Russel Wallace's landmark travel memoir The Malay Archipelago, chronicling his eight years of exploration in southeast Asia — the watershed experience that he later famously called "the central and controlling incident of my life". Marking this anniversary is An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion (Chicago), offering new insights into Wallace's life and thought. Wallace may be most famous as co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection and founder of the field of evolutionary biogeography — two great achievements connected with his epic journey — but the depth and breadth of his later contributions are equally impressive.

This day meeting celebrates the legacy of Wallace's "central and controlling incident" through the lens of the Wallace Companion, with talks by the book's contributors and other scholars, exploring Wallace's interests scientific and social and what they mean for us today.

Speakers include: Dr Andrew Berry FLS, Dr David Collard, Prof James T. Costa FLS, Ms Eleanor Drinkwater, Prof Martin Fichman, Prof Dr Matthias Glaubrecht, Dr Richard Milner FLS, and Prof Robert Smith, with a keynote address by National Geographic photographer Clay Bolt co-sponsored by the Charles Darwin Trust.


9:30–9:50 — Registration

9:50–10:00 — Opening Remarks/ Introduction by the Linnean Society

10:00–12:00 — Morning Session

10.00–10.20 — Richard Milner; Worlds within worlds: Wallace’s life arc as revealed in eight decades of letters

10.20–10.40 — Andrew Berry, “A very bad hand at writing anything like narrative”: Seven years to write up eight years of travel in the Malay Archipelago

10:40–11:00 — James T. Costa; Alfred Russel Wallace’s biogeographic vision in space and time

11.00–11.20 — Tea/Coffee Break

11:20–11:40 — Eleanor Drinkwater; “What is the meaning of this strange travestie?” Wallace’s views on colour as defence

11:40–12:00 — James T. Costa; “Crushed under a mountain of facts”: Wallace and Darwin on sexual selection and human evolution

12.00–13.00 — Lunch

13:00–15:30 — Afternoon Session

13.00–13.20 — David Collard; Wallace on livelihoods in the Malay Archipelago and after

13.20–13.40 — Martin Fichman; Wallace’s critique of industrial society

13.40–14.00 — Matthias Glaubrecht; Wallace and “A future without forests”

14.00–14.20 — Tea/Coffee Break

14.20–15.20 — Clay Bolt; Rediscovering Wallace’s Giant Bee: How a chance encounter led to the rediscovery of the world’s largest bee [Keynote]

15.20–15.30 — Closing Remarks

15.30–17.30 — Reception, Exhibit, Discovery Room

  • Registration (£25/ £15 for students) includes lunch, refreshments and a wine reception.
  • Programme and abstracts are available to download here.

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