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The Heretic In Darwin's Court

The Heretic In Darwin's Court

4.6 3
by Ross A. Slotten, Columbia University Press

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ISBN-10: 0231130112

ISBN-13: 9780231130110

Pub. Date: 03/01/2006

Publisher: Columbia University Press

The Heretic in Darwin's Court explores the controversial life and scientific contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace-Victorian traveler, spiritualist, and scientist who proposed the theory of natural selection with his noted colleague, Charles Darwin. In this biography, Ross A. Slotten recounts Wallace's twelve years of harrowing travels in the western and


The Heretic in Darwin's Court explores the controversial life and scientific contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace-Victorian traveler, spiritualist, and scientist who proposed the theory of natural selection with his noted colleague, Charles Darwin. In this biography, Ross A. Slotten recounts Wallace's twelve years of harrowing travels in the western and eastern tropics, which place him in the pantheon of the greatest explorer-naturalists of the nineteenth century. The remaining fifty years of Wallace's life were just as controversial. In addition to diverging from Darwin on two fundamental issues-sexual selection and the origin of the human mind-Wallace pursued topics that most scientific figures of his day conspicuously avoided, including spiritualism, phrenology, mesmerism, environmentalism, and life on Mars.The Heretic in Darwin's Court casts new light on Wallace's intellectual investigations into the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe itself. His achievements remain some of the most inspired scientific accomplishments in history.

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Columbia University Press
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Product dimensions:
1.41(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Origins of a Heretic10
Chapter 2The Struggle for Existence22
Chapter 3A Daring Plan32
Chapter 4Travels on the Amazon ...47
Chapter 5... And the Rio Negro63
Chapter 6Disaster at Sea ... and a Civilized Interlude84
Chapter 7The Malay Archipelago105
Chapter 8The Mechanism Revealed141
Chapter 9Beautiful Dreamer186
Chapter 10A Turn Toward the Unknowable225
Chapter 11The Olympian Heights and the Beginnings of the Fall249
Chapter 12Wallace and The Descent of Man280
Chapter 13The Descent of Wallace298
Chapter 14The War on Spiritualism326
Chapter 15Phoenix from the Ashes352
Chapter 16To the Land of Epidemic Delusions379
Chapter 17The New Nemesis401
Chapter 18Thoroughly Unpopular Causes422
Chapter 19Satisfaction, Retrospection, and Work456
Chapter 20A National Treasure Celebrated477
Genealogy of the Wallace Family494
Biographical Index549
Select Bibliography559

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The Heretic In Darwin's Court 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
The Heretic in Darwin's Court by Ross A. Slotten This is the biography of Alfred Russel Wallace, a Darwin contemporary who, along with Darwin, developed simultaneously the theory of natural selection. We follow Wallace’s humble birth, self education, and journeys: first through the Amazon and later through the Malay Archipelago. The book then turns to the more flamboyant aspects of Wallace's life: in addition to Wallace’s divergence From Darwin on sexual selection and the origin of the human mind, he pursued topics that most scientists of his day avoided - and perhaps the reason why Darwin is the dominant figure of the 19th century - spiritualism, phrenology. mesmerism, environmentalism, and extraterrestrial life.... “Both Wallace and Darwin were profoundly influenced by the same two men, Lyell and Malthus, and had access to a similar body of data - a fact that is no coincidence. But they approached the problem from opposite directions. Wallace discovered his principle of divergence before discovering natural selection, the mechanism behind that divergence. Darwin discovered natural selection first and joined it to his principle of divergence, the result of natural selection, more than a decade later. Wallace arrived at his conclusion from studies of organisms in their natural habitats; Darwin did so from studies of domesticated animals, barnacles, and plants. As the years progressed, Darwin’s and Wallace’s views would converge until the critical day in June 1858. Until that point, neither man fully grasped that each was about to collide with the other.” p. 153 “Each chemical element consisted of a molecule composed of simple atoms in greater or lesser numbers. Organic compounds were created by combining molecules. Combining organic compounds in ever greater complexity produced ‘organized beings.’ Wallace continued: ‘This view enables us to comprehend the possibility, of the phenomena of vegetative life being due to an almost infinite complexity of molecular combinations, subject to definite changes under the stimuli of heat, moisture, light, electricity, and probable unknown forces.’ But this increasing complexity, even if carried out infinitely, could not have the slightest tendency to originate consciousness in such molecules or group of molecules. ‘If a material element, or a combination of a thousand material elements in a molecule, are alike unconscious,’ he said, ‘it is impossible for us to believe, that a mere addition of one, two, or a thousand other material elements to form a more complex molecule, could in any way tend to produce a self-conscious existence.‘ A more definite conception of matter was therefore required, one with clearly enunciated properties, explaining precisely how self-consciousness emulated from atoms. There was no escaping this dilemma; either all matter was conscious, or consciousness was something different from matter. If it was something distinct, then conscious beings were independent of what was termed ‘matter.’” p. 283 I must confess that this book was on “my pile of book to reads” for almost a decade. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it. However, Slotten’s excellent prose makes for a very pleasant read. All 492 pages were read in about 10 days. I was immersed in the 19th century scientific world from the first page. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. For the record: I would recommend a map of Wallace’s travels for the second edition - for it was hard to follow, at times, the numerous travels that the man completed. I must commend Dr. Slotten for his knowledge on the matter at hand and I would recommend the book to anyone with scientific curiosity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ross Slotten, an American family doctor, has written a fine biography of Alfred Wallace, the 19th century¿s greatest explorer-naturalist and the co-discoverer of evolution. Wallace¿s 1858 essay `On the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original type¿ outlined the theory of evolution and pushed Darwin into publishing his The origin of species by means of natural selection in 1859. They ¿had discovered a true natural system, one without a predetermined balance, teleology, or divine plan.¿ Natural selection made a creator unnecessary: developments were not due to some prior purpose or design. Mind had evolved from matter, not matter from a Mind. Darwin and Wallace united two ideas ¿ the survival of the fittest, and the common origin and divergence of species. Natural selection was like the human practice of selecting among domestic animals and plants. Wallace spent 12 years in the western and eastern tropics collecting and studying insects, birds, fish, plants and mammals. He wrote up his experiences in A narrative of travels on the Amazon and the Rio Negro (1853) and The Malay Archipelago (1869). He pioneered the study of biogeography, writing the classics The geographical distribution of animals (1876) and Island life (1880). He later turned to spiritualism because of the death of his first-born son. As Slotten writes, ¿Wallace tried to do the impossible in attempting to reconcile religion and science.¿ Wallace also wrote, Bad times: an essay on the present depression of trade, tracing it to its sources in enormous foreign loans, excessive war expenditure, the increase of speculation and of millionaires, and the depopulation of the rural districts, with suggested remedies (1885), which sounds quite up-to-date! He had abounding intellectual curiosity and tirelessly sought truth and justice. The Times wrote of his `restless, always creative, and original intelligence¿. Wallace said that Darwin¿s Origin of species was the greatest book since Isaac Newton¿s Principia, writing that Darwin¿s name ¿should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modern times.¿ Together, Darwin and Wallace had overthrown creationism and, as Slotten writes, ¿This was arguably the greatest intellectual revolution in modern Western history.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everything about this book was enjoyable! The presentation is beautiful, the subject compelling and fascinating, and the writer's prose is flawlessly, consistently, enchanting. History can so easily be dull, but this biography of Alfred Russel Wallace absolutely zips along because of the author's skill with words and agile command of the language. I started reading this book because of the subject's various, and sometimes contradictory, directions and pursuits, but found myself enjoying the journey through his life, (and times), because of the universe of interesting details of a colourful and richly appointed period. I cannot imagine the volume of research that went into it, but the result is magically transporting, and completely entertaining.