Darwin’s Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution

Candlewick. Mar. 2020. 64p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781536209327.
Gr 5 Up–Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was as important as Charles Darwin in the formulation of the theory of evolution, but never as well known. This oversize biography shows how the poverty Wallace experienced in his early life influenced his interest in the natural world in his native England, and then concentrates on his far-flung research trips from 1848 to 1862. He was astonished by the incredible variety of species he observed in the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago. Many of these beetles, butterflies, birds, and mammals are illustrated in muted shades of green, blue, brown, and orange. Digitally produced to look like woodblock prints, their style gives a sense of the past. The observations from Wallace’s journals interspersed throughout illuminate his detailed thought processes as he began to recognize the impact of geographic isolation upon the differentiation of similar species. The work he undertook was filled with dangers—fires, shipwrecks, tropical diseases—yet he never faltered in his quest to discover as much as he could about life on Earth. Darwin considered Wallace a colleague and wrote, “He rates me much too highly and himself much too lowly.” An illustrated glossary is included.
VERDICT An important addition to library collections as an introduction to early scientific methods, cooperation between scientists, and an inspiration to would-be naturalists.

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