Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon: Footsteps in the Forest

Overview

A fascinating account of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace's 1848 expedition to the Amazon

Alfred Russel Wallace spent almost two years traveling up the Rio Negro, a region few Europeans had explored, collecting natural history specimens. A fire onboard the ship during the return journey to England destroyed all of his collections, but among the possessions rescued was a collection of sketches of fish, later presented to the Natural ...

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Overview

A fascinating account of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace's 1848 expedition to the Amazon

Alfred Russel Wallace spent almost two years traveling up the Rio Negro, a region few Europeans had explored, collecting natural history specimens. A fire onboard the ship during the return journey to England destroyed all of his collections, but among the possessions rescued was a collection of sketches of fish, later presented to the Natural History Museum. This book describes the naturalist in the making, the tragic loss of Wallace's collections, and how this affected his future. His research ultimately led him (in parallel with Darwin) to one of the biggest and most controversial ideas of the 19th century—evolution by natural selection—and his understanding of this process certainly began in the Amazon. Wallace's Amazonian adventure is recounted using his own words where possible, and illustrated throughout with his delicate pencil drawings. The story is interwoven with the author's current experience of tropical field work and is told in a lively, informal style.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/30/2013
In 1858, while collecting specimens in the Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russel Wallace sent Charles Darwin a short manuscript detailing the concept of natural selection. The note spurred Darwin to publish On the Origin of Species the following year. Insights with the import of natural selection don’t arise ex-nihilo, and botanist Knapp, in this short, attractive volume, helps us explore how Wallace developed his conclusions. Wallace spent four years, 1848–1852, carefully exploring Brazil’s Amazon basin. Knapp combines some of her own experiences in the Amazon with Wallace’s writings from his journals and letters to examine his first trip abroad as a naturalist. She notes that “ great skill at seeing patterns and in linking isolated pieces of observation into a coherent whole made him the first real evolutionary biogeographer.” Disaster struck Wallace on his voyage back to England as the ship he was on caught fire and sank. All of the specimens and possessions he had with him were lost at sea except for a metal box containing drawings he made of tropical palms and fish; these 62 drawings are included here, adding depth and richness to the book. Knapp’s easy read sheds much-deserved light on one of biology’s luminaries. Illus. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

“Knapp’s easy read sheds much-deserved light on one of biology’s luminaries.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780565093303
  • Publisher: Natural History Museum, London
  • Publication date: 12/1/2013
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 1,517,656
  • Product dimensions: 4.40 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Knapp is a botanist at the Natural History Museum in London who has spent many years collecting plants in tropical Central and South America. Alfred Russel Wallace has always been one of her scientific heroes, and her personal discovery of the drawings held in the library at the Museum prompted her to write this book as a way of making them available to more than just a few.
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