In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace - A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History Hardcover – Apr 15 2002
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From Library Journal
Wallace is nearly unknown today, but he was revered as one of the preeminent naturalists of the Victorian age. Accorded the rank of "codiscoverer" of the theory of natural selection (ranking second only to Charles Darwin), Wallace spent twice as much time as Darwin collecting specimens during ocean voyages and in remote jungles. What he didn't do was devote years formulating his observations into evolutionary theory; instead, he started with the theory of natural selection and then set about finding the data to prove it. It was his initial draft that spurred Darwin to publish, without further delay, his first paper outlining the theory of evolution. This new biography details the distinct differences in their viewpoints of natural selection. Despite Wallace's tremendous intellect and contributions to science, his foray into and support of spiritualism, sances, and phrenology tarnished his credibility and standing. Shermer is founding publisher and editor in chief of Skeptic magazine, the author of several popular science books, and considered an authority on the heretical personality. His expertise in analyzing the life and paradoxical beliefs of this complex man elevate "the last great Victorian" to a position of prominence as one of the significant leaders in modern science. Highly recommended for all academic and larger public library science collections. Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll. Lib., Kansas City, MO
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Last year, Peter Raby's Alfred Russell Wallace [BKL Ag 01] offered a deeply sympathetic portrait of the controversial co-discoverer of natural selection, largely accepting him on his own eccentric terms. Now, in this complementary study, the editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine applies the tools of objective science to probe the enigmatic psychology of this pioneering thinker, who embarrassed many of his professional colleagues by entangling himself in both radical politics and bizarre spiritualism. Sociological theories of birth order, social class, and parental separation hint at why Wallace developed a heretic personality, attracted to subversive science (evolution), to outre religion (spiritualism), and radical politics (gender and racial egalitarianism). Though this theoretical framework does clarify and unify the disparate elements of Wallace's life, the scientist's admirers may protest that it reduces Wallace to merely another case study in irrationalism. But other readers will applaud Shermer for the toughmindedness necessary to sever Wallace's laudable openmindedness in doing biology or advancing political causes from his dubious naivete in frequenting the seance. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
Wallace was a complicated personality, perhaps even more so than Darwin himself. In order to build a coherent image of his subject, Shermer creates a "historical matrix model". This is a three-dimensional visual aid of the elements he's utilising in erecting Wallace's biography. Mixing time, Wallace's various excursions and interests, Shermer ties the whole structure to his subject's views on evolution of humanity and the mind. Whether this method works may depend on your attitude about applying mathematical structures to a man's life. Fortunately for readability, Shermer keeps the application of this device at a low key, saving his analytical summation to the end of the book - where it falls flat.
Shermer traces the voyages Wallace was virtually forced to undertake.Read more ›
It also contains compelling 'for the defense' material (Darwin's, not Wallace's) on the controversy-debate over the priority question of Wallace and Darwin and the 'delicate arrangement' to use the phrase of Leonard Huxley and the title of A.Brackman's book by that name. Shermer's response to the charges of Brackman (and also Brooks in _Just Before the Origins_) is a needed analytical rejoinder from a Darwinist, whether successful or not remains open. The question of divergence and plagiarism seems partly settled, but still it is all fishy. And is it the real strategy of our Wallace biographer to rescue Darwin?
Even if the specific charges made by Brackman and Brooks, and it is an if, were found untrue, the fact remains that something is strange in the whole episode. As noted by Brooks, there is the more general question of Darwin's great delay in publishing his work. If we are confirmed Darwinists, this is one thing. But if we realize that the theory of selectionism, as Wallace finally realized, is not the full picture, we should wonder if Darwin was unconsciously unsure of his own theory, prodded only under duress to 'out with it'. His strategy would be obvious in that case.
Does it all matter if Darwin's theory is in fact not a true or complete theory of evolution?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
After reading a review in NY review of books of Shermer's book I snapped out of my previous opinion and decided to revise my previous review here. Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2003 by John C. Landon
Alfred Russel Wallace seems to rate hardly more than a footnote in the history of the theory of evolution. Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2003 by Atheen
A nice story of the scientist who came to a similar conclusion about natural history as his elder and more famous colleague, Darwin. Read morePublished on June 9 2003 by Douglas O'Neal
Interesting read of Wallace, co-founder of the theory of evolution.
This book details Wallace's relationship with Darwin, his own evolutionary theory which 'evolved' toward... Read more
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