Alfred Russel Wallace was a British scientist, anthropologist, biologist, and explorer who is best remembered for coining the term “evolution by natural selection.” He was also a pioneer in the field of biogeography, making significant contributions to the study of animal species’ geographical distribution. Despite his vast knowledge of nature and its phenomena, his life was a constant struggle for financial survival. It was quite late in his life that one of his closest friends, Charles Darwin, assisted him in obtaining a stable source of income in the form of a small government pension in exchange for his lifetime of scientific contributions. His most illustrious works include the groundbreaking discovery of evolution by natural selection and extensive fieldwork in the Amazon River basin and then the Malay Archipelago to collect specimens. Apart from his outstanding scientific contributions, he became involved in social activism, speaking out against the unjust social and economic system prevalent in nineteenth-century Britain. He was also a prolific author and one of the first scientists to express concern about human activity’s environmental impact. However, he is best remembered as a natural explorer and a curious scientist who, through his keen interest in natural history, independently revolutionized the concept of evolution.
Childhood & Adolescence
He was born to Thomas Vere Wallace and Mary Ann Wallace on January 8, 1823 in Kensington Cottage near Usk, Monmouthshire, England. He was one of his parents’ nine children.
His family relocated to Hertford in 1828, and he spent the next six years at the Hertford Grammar School.
His father inherited some property that generated revenue, but he squandered the majority of it through a series of poor business decisions. Alfred was eventually forced to leave school in 1836 due to his family’s deteriorating financial situation.
He was sent to London to work as an apprentice builder with his older brother, John. He worked on his self-education while in London, attending lectures and reading books at the London Mechanics Institute.
Career of Alferd
He began working as an apprentice for his eldest brother, William, in 1837. Their business eventually settled in Neath, Glamorgan, Wales, in 1839–40, but after a few years, the business weakened due to difficult economic conditions, and Alfred left his job at his brother’s firm.
He later found teaching work at Leicester’s Collegiate School. He met an entomologist, Henry Walter Bates, while working as a teacher, who convinced him to collect insects for research purposes. William died in 1845, and he resigned from his teaching position to co-manage his brother’s firm with his brother, John.
Eventually, the business failed, and he found work as a civil engineer with a firm. His work required him to spend a great deal of time in the countryside, which allowed him to pursue his newly developed hobby of collecting insects.
He founded his own architecture firm with his brother John and worked on several projects, including the 1843 Neath Mechanics’ Institute. He was persuaded to deliver lectures on science and engineering at the institute by the institute’s founder.
He and Bates set off for Brazil in 1848 in search of insects and other animal specimens in the Amazon rainforest. Their intention was to import them and sell them to collectors in the United Kingdom.
After four years of successful exploration and a large collection of specimens, on his way back to the United Kingdom in 1852, the ship’s cargo caught fire, destroying the majority of the gatherings and valuable items. Although the crew was rescued, he only kept a portion of his diary and a few sketches from his voyage.
Upon his return, he lived off the insurance proceeds for his lost belongings for several months. He also wrote several books and articles about his expedition’s experiences and made contacts with other naturalists, including Charles Darwin.
Between 1854 and 1862, he embarked on a second voyage through the Malay Archipelago or East Indies, this time to study natural history and collect additional specimens.
He developed his now-famous insight into the theory of evolution by natural selection during his exploration. In 1858, he published an article describing his insights alongside a description of the famous Darwin’s theory.
Upon his return to the United Kingdom, he developed an interest in social activism in addition to his scientific endeavors, and became involved in debates over trade policy and land reform. He also wrote articles on a variety of other social and political issues, including women’s suffrage and militarism’s dangers and wastefulness.
In his later years, he met and viewed the collections of numerous other prominent American naturalists. He continued his scientific research on Darwinism while also lecturing on biogeography, spiritualism, and socioeconomic reforms.
Significant Works of Alferd
His most notable contribution was formulating the ‘theory of evolution by natural selection’. It is one of the most renowned works in evolutionary history.
He also pioneered work in biogeography and established himself as an authority on the geographical distribution of animal species.
‘The Malay Archipelago,’ an account of his studies and adventures, was published in 1869 and quickly became one of the most popular works of nineteenth-century scientific exploration.
One of his most notable contributions was the ‘Wallace Effect,’ a hypothesis about how natural selection can promote speciation by encouraging the development of barriers to hybridization.
Awards and Accomplishments
In 1868, the Royal Society awarded him the Royal Medal for his contributions to “practical and theoretical zoology.”
In 1892, he was awarded the Founder’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Gold Medal of the Linnean Society.
In 1908, he received the Copley Medal. He also received the ‘Order of Merit’ that year. Additionally, he was awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Dublin (1882) and Oxford (1908). (1889).
Personal History and Legacies
He married Annie Mitten in 1866, the daughter of William Mitten, a moss expert. Herbert, Violet, and William were born to them.
In the years that followed, he made some poor investments in railways and mines, precipitating a financial crisis for himself and his family. Only through the efforts of his friends, particularly Darwin, was he awarded a £200 annual pension in 1881, stabilizing his financial situation.
He died on November 7, 1913, at the age of 90, in Broadstone, Dorset, England. He was laid to rest in Broadstone, Dorset’s small cemetery.
Estimated Net Worth
Alfred is one of the wealthiest biologists and is featured on the list of the most popular biologists. Alfred Russel Wallace’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.7Million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.