The Heretic in Darwin's Court

The Heretic in Darwin's Court

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Does anyone remember who won the Olympic silver medal for speed skating the year Eric Heiden raced his way to the gold? And how many of us routinely pair Georges Braque with Picasso when casual art conversations turn to Cubism? History is filled with the qother guysq who, despite their considerable achievements, do not bear the names we associate with arriving first, with genius, and with having changed in some significant way the world we live in. During their lifetimes, Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin shared credit for the independent and almost simultaneous discovery of the theory of natural selection. Together, the two men spearheaded one of the greatest intellectual revolutions in modern history. Indeed, their rivalry, usually amicable but occasionally acrimonious, shaped modern evolutionary theory. Yet few people today besides scholars and evolutionary biologists know much about Wallace, and the handful of existing biographies often have downplayed the value of his scientific work. The Heretic in Darwin's Court explores the controversial life and works of Alfred Russel Wallace-Victorian traveler, scientist, spiritualist, and co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection. The book begins with Wallace's twelve years of often harrowing travels in the western and eastern tropics, which place him in the pantheon of the greatest explorer-naturalists of the nineteenth century. It traces step by step his discovery of the theory of natural selection, a piece of detective work as exciting as the discovery of the structure of DNA. We then follow the remaining fifty years of Wallace's life, which were among the most eccentric-and entertaining-of those of any Victorian figure. In addition to his divergence from Darwin on two fundamental issues-sexual selection and the origin of the human mind-he pursued topics that most scientific figures of his day avoided, including spiritualism, phrenology, mesmerism, environmentalism, and the question of life on Mars. Although there may be disagreement about his conclusions, Wallace's intellectual investigations-the origins of life, consciousness, the universe itself-remain relevant. This biography casts new light on the life and work of Alfred Russel Wallace and the importance of his twenty-five-year relationship with the other guy, Charles Darwin.He took up his new hobby with characteristic zeal, buying a manual on British coleoptera, a collecting bottle, pins, and a ... neglected park that enclosed the picturesque ruins of a mansion five miles from the center of town, where the woodsanbsp;...

Title:The Heretic in Darwin's Court
Author: Ross A. Slotten
Publisher:Columbia University Press - 2012-07-24

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