An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace [NOOK Book]

Overview

Codiscoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace should be recognized as one of the titans of Victorian science. Instead he has long been relegated to a secondary place behind Darwin. Worse, many scholars have overlooked or even mocked his significant contributions to other aspects of Victorian culture. With An Elusive Victorian, Martin Fichman provides the first comprehensive analytical study of Wallace's ...
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An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace

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Overview

Codiscoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace should be recognized as one of the titans of Victorian science. Instead he has long been relegated to a secondary place behind Darwin. Worse, many scholars have overlooked or even mocked his significant contributions to other aspects of Victorian culture. With An Elusive Victorian, Martin Fichman provides the first comprehensive analytical study of Wallace's life and controversial intellectual career.

Fichman examines not only Wallace's scientific work as an evolutionary theorist and field naturalist but also his philosophical concerns, his involvement with theism, and his commitment to land nationalization and other sociopolitical reforms such as women's rights. As Fichman shows, Wallace worked throughout his life to integrate these humanistic and scientific interests. His goal: the development of an evolutionary cosmology, a unified vision of humanity's place in nature and society that he hoped would ensure the dignity of all individuals.

To reveal the many aspects of this compelling figure, Fichman not only reexamines Wallace's published works, but also probes the contents of his lesser known writings, unpublished correspondence, and copious annotations in books from his personal library. Rather than consider Wallace's science as distinct from his sociopolitical commitments, An Elusive Victorian assumes a mutually beneficial relationship between the two, one which shaped Wallace into one of the most memorable characters of his time. Fully situating Wallace's wide-ranging work in its historical and cultural context, Fichman's innovative and insightful account will interest historians of science, religion, and Victorian culture as well as biologists.
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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education Supplement

"[A] sophisticated analytical study that seeks to find, map and explain the link between Wallace's diverse interests."
American Scientist

"An Elusive Victorian, a deft analytical contextualization of Wallace, delineates his place in the broader Victorian clashes over science, politics, and religion. . . . Fichman has written a solid and important book . . ."
Natural History Magazine

"Elegant and accomplished . . ."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226246154
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • File size: 859 KB

Meet the Author

Martin Fichman is a professor of humanities at York University in Canada. He is the author, most recently, of Evolutionary Theory and Victorian Culture and Science, Technology, and Society: A Historical Perspective.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1- Introduction
Chapter 2- The Making of a Victorian Naturalist
Chapter 3- Wallace's Evolutionary Philosophy
Chapter 4- The Making of a Victorian Spiritualist
Chapter 5- Land Nationalization to Socialism
Chapter 6- Toward a Synthesis: Wallace's Theistic Evolutionary Theology
Chapter 7- Epilogue
Bibliography
Index
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2003

    understanding Wallace

    Until recently Alfred Russel Wallace was looked upon in little more than 'other man' terms: yes, he had co-invented the theory of natural selection, but with Darwin around, who needed to be concerned about another Victorian evolutionist? Things are changing, however, and this book is completely successful in showing just how different Wallace was from Darwin, and why greater interest needs to be taken in his work. It has been known for a long time that Wallace was a spiritualist, but it had always been assumed, even by professional historians and scientists, that this side of his personality was just a quirk--a quirk to be taken neither seriously, nor constructively. Similarly, his adventures in the world of land nationalization, socialism, and other forms of social criticism were thought to be the actions of a crank, and to detract from the 'serious' science that he did do. Fichman's contextualist study of Wallace goes a long way toward debunking these myths. While neither a full biography nor a full-ranging analysis of Wallace's many contributions, it does do a better job than any previous effort in fully revealing Wallace's intellectual essence, and how this gave rise to his varied interests. In particular, it dwells on his spiritualism and socialism, and how these represented integral parts of his world view. Previous workers, evading the larger picture, have fostered the misappreciation that his adoption of spiritualism caused him to change his mind regarding certain aspects of the validity of natural selection; here, we see how for him both subjects fit equally into a larger scale appreciation of nature--one that also recognized a place for both moral and social concerns. In short, this work is a big step forward in coming to grips with the thought of one of the Victorian age's greatest minds. Wallace may be an 'elusive' Victorian, but he is not an inscrutable one, and the lessons to be learned from this penetrating analysis are many.

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