Alas, poor Wallace

I have never reblogged somebody else’s post from another blog but this superb post on the current public misrepresentation of Alfred Russel Wallace by his fan club, posted by John van Wyhe on Rebekah “Becky” Higgitt’s teleskopos blog, is so in tune with the ethos of the Renaissance Mathematicus that I have decided to reblog it here. Read and enjoy!


This guest post by John van Wyhe is the result of my asking him to expand on a point raised on Facebook…

This year is the centenary of the death of Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. This has sparked an unprecedented amount of media attention. (Compare with the 2009 Darwin bicentenary) The Wallace “experts” most often interviewed, however, are usually not historians of science, but scientists or enthusiasts. This would be unacceptable for physics, economics or even sports. So why is it so routinely the case for history of science? It is a small field, but there are many departments and scholars in our universities who conduct sophisticated research on science past. If we want to tell the public about Victorian science, surely historians of science should be in the conversation?

In the hands of admiring amateurs, Wallace has evolved into a heroic but forgotten genius – wrongfully obscured…

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