The prominent absence of Alfred Russel Wallace at the Darwin anniversaries in Germany in 1909, 1959 and 2009

Hossfeld, Uwe; Olsson, Lennart
December 2013
Theory in Biosciences;Dec2013, Vol. 132 Issue 4, p251
Academic Journal
It is well known that the contribution of Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) to the development of the 'Darwinian' principle of natural selection has often been neglected. Here we focus on how the three anniversaries to celebrate the origin of the Darwin-Wallace theory in Germany in 1909, in 1959 in the divided country, as well as in 2009, have represented Charles Robert Darwin's and Alfred Russell Wallace's contributions. We have analyzed books and proceedings volumes related to these anniversaries, and the main result is that Wallace was almost always ignored, or only mentioned in passing. In 1909, Ernst Haeckel gave a talk in Jena, later published under the title The worldview of Darwin and Lamarck (Das Weltbild von Darwin und Lamarck), but not as the Darwin-Wallace concept. Haeckel mentions Wallace only once. In two important proceedings volumes from the 1959 anniversaries, Wallace was ignored. The only fair treatment of Wallace is given in another book, a collection of documents edited by Gerhard Heberer, for which the author selected nine key documents and reprinted excerpts (1959). Three of them were articles by Wallace, including the Sarawak- and Ternate-papers of 1855 and 1858, respectively. An analysis of the dominant themes during the celebrations of 2009 shows that none of the six topics had much to do with Wallace and his work. Thus, the tendency to exclude Alfred Russell Wallace is an international phenomenon, and largely attributable to the 'Darwin industry'.


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