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In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace - A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History Hardcover – Apr 15 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 15 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195148304
  • ISBN-13: 978-2702879153
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.8 x 16 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 798 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,281,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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, s‚ances, 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.

From Booklist

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

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Format: Hardcover
Restoring Albert Russell Wallace's reputation is an occasional occupation with historians. Some wish to elevate him over Darwin, usually on the question of "priority" - who first thought up evolution by natural selection? Others portray him as the victim of Britain's class structure - doomed to obscurity because of his humble background. Shermer, although the title implies otherwise, makes an attempt to reconcile Darwin and Wallace, at least over natural selection. From that point, Shermer follows Wallace through a complex life. This readable, if somewhat shallow, biography does Wallace justice, but at the cost of shedding the broader context. In support of his programme, he relies heavily on Frank Sulloway's research on "birth-order" and creativity. This innovative study has had a rocky career, but Shermer finds it useful. For him, the findings have meaning, but their validity remains unclear. Especially when comparing but two subjects.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book rather in spite of than because of the other Amazon reviews, and lugged it with me on a flight out to the West Coast. The book lasted from Boston to Atlanta, and when it was over I closed it with a sigh of relief. While Shermer is certainly at times an engaging writer here he indulges in a rather peculiar form of quantitative psycho-history mixed in with the equally peculiar allocation of behavioural traits to birth order. There MAY be something in this somewhere, but at the same time it smacks of the 19th century Victorian fetish about cranial measurments that Shermer's evident hero-mentor Stephen Gould took to task in THE MISMEASURE OF MAN. That Shermer is so obsessed with his methodologies (he devotes a substantial portion of the book to 'how he did it") is a shame because it lessens and weakens his focus on his putative topic, the fascinating Alfred Wallace. Instead of really delving intoWallace's background and early experiences we get a few pages of quick gloss intertwined with what frankly struck me as mumbo-jumbo about what it means to be a Younger Child. This may be all very new Age & Hip right now, but I strongly doubt it will prove to have much in the way of scholarly legs. Then there is the tedious re-hashing of Gould's speculations which other reviewers have already re-hashed. Yup, they are old, they are trite, and can we please now move on? Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the discussion of Wallace's involvement with various "Spiritualist" frauds during the second half of his career. Here the writing really picks up & one has the sense that "aha, now we are going to get somewhere". Alas, the excitement soon fades & the book itself fades out to a gentle glow at the end. i really don't know how to categorize this text.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This an important and readable contribution to the biographical lore of Alfred Wallace, the co-discoverer with Darwin of the selectionist theory of evolution, and later a dissenter on the question of the descent of man, both theoretically and in relation to his interest in Spiritualism. Although I differ considerably in perspective, the book is well worth reading and interesting and useful even to a critic of Darwin.
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?
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