Remembering science legend Alfred Russel Wallace

John Phillips A 19th century adventurer who helped formulate the groundbreaking theory of evolution will be honoured at Valence House Museum when it reopens after its �7million revamp. Alfred Russel Wallace, who lived in Tanner Street, Barking, sent Charles Darwin an e

John Phillips

A 19th century adventurer who helped formulate the groundbreaking theory of evolution will be honoured at Valence House Museum when it reopens after its �7million revamp.

Alfred Russel Wallace, who lived in Tanner Street, Barking, sent Charles Darwin an essay on evolution in 1858 after arriving at the idea of natural selection following trips to the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago.

Darwin and Wallace presented a joint paper on their respective theories later that year and in 1859 Darwin published his landmark work, On The Origin of Species. Its 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year.


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Wallace's fascinating story will be featured in the local celebrities gallery of Valence House, Becontree Avenue, Dagenham, when it reopens in May 2010.

Visitors will learn how the two naturalists regularly corresponded after Wallace moved to the red brick house called Holly Lodge in Tanner Street in March 1870.

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A month later Wallace published his book called Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection: A series of essays.

Census records from 1871 reveal Wallace, then aged 59, was an author of natural history and had a wife called Annie and two children, Herbert and Violet.

Their theories differed, Darwin emphasising competition between individuals and Wallace environmental pressures. But the latter was a leading thinker and expert on the geographical distribution of animal species.

He also became embroiled in a dispute over the "flat Earth" theory, which eventually led to a court case.

Wallace died in 1913 and was buried at Broadstone, Dorset, and is the subject of a travelling show by comedian Bill Bailey.

Labour Cllr Bob Little, culture executive member, said: "Alfred Wallace was a valued member of the scientific community and, while not achieving the same popularity as Darwin, contributed greatly to our understanding of natural selection. It is important that his place in Barking's history be recognised.

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