Exhibition to celebrate the achievements of scientist Alfred Russel Wallace
A WELSHMAN who co-founded the theory of evolution is to be the subject of a major new exhibition in Swansea.
While Charles Darwin is the name most famously associated with the ground-breaking idea, Monmouth man Alfred Russel Wallace was developing the same theory at the same time — and a joint paper on the subject by the pair was presented to the Linnean Society of London in 1858.
Over the decades Wallace's name has faded but now his extraordinary achievements — and adventures — are to be celebrated at Swansea Museum in a three month long exhibition.
Nick Bradley, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Finding out about Wallace’s achievements and adventures across the world makes for fascinating reading.
“Many people out there will not have realised that a Welshman was just as influential as Charles Darwin, a name that’s known across the planet, in founding the theory of evolution that’s taught to millions of schoolchildren every year.
“This exhibition will shine a light on the remarkable life of an incredible man who, through history, hasn’t been given the recognition he so richly deserves.”
Born in Usk in 1823, Wallace was an explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist of international acclaim.
In the autumn of 1841 Wallace moved to Neath to work with his brother as land surveyors and civil engineers.
He lived at Bryncoch Farm and later helped to survey the proposed Vale of Neath railway line, while also reading the latest scientific books and indulging his love of insect collecting.
He spent a great deal of time walking in the Neath Valley, and said of the area: “I cannot call to mind a single valley that in the same extent of country comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery and so many interesting and special features as the Vale of Neath.”
Wallace also designed the Mechanics’ Institute building in Neath town centre, and later gave lectures on engineering there.
His time in Neath Valley is credited with sparking his interest in the wider natural world.
In 1848 — aged just 25 — he left Neath and set sail for Brazil to explore the Amazon rainforest and collect specimens, later going on to Malaysia and Borneo where he looked for further evidence of his theory of evolution.
By the time he died in 1913 he was one of the most famous scientists in the world, and was also responsible for writing one of the most celebrated travel books of the 19th Century — The Malay Archipelago .
Wallace was also a social activist who was critical of what he considered to be the unfair economic system faced by working men and women in Britain.
The Wallace exhibition runs at Swansea Museum from October 15 to January 23, 2014.