ARTICLE: The impact of A. R. Wallace’s Sarawak Law paper reassessed

A new article in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences will interest readers here. Its author, the creator of Darwin Online and Wallace Online, has devoted much time and research in reevaluating the story of Wallace and Darwin.

The impact of A. R. Wallace’s Sarawak Law paper reassessed

John van Wyhe

Abstract This article examines six main elements in the modern story of the impact of Alfred Russel Wallace’s 1855 Sarawak Law paper, particularly in the many accounts of Charles Darwin’s life and work. These elements are: 1 It was Wallace’s first avowal of evolution; 2 Wallace laid out the theory of evolution minus only a “mechanism”; 3 Darwin failed to see how close Wallace was approaching; 4 Lyell did see how close Wallace was approaching; 5 Lyell urged Darwin to publish because of Wallace; 6 Darwin wrote to Wallace to warn him off his path. Each of these are very frequently repeated as straightforward facts in the popular and scholarly literature. It is here argued that each of these is erroneous and that the role of the Sarawak Law paper in the historiography of Darwin and Wallace needs to be revised.

You can read this article online or download the PDF for free.

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2 thoughts on “ARTICLE: The impact of A. R. Wallace’s Sarawak Law paper reassessed

  1. Fascinating. We can understand what leads the “diss Darwin” brigade to accept the widespread view refuted in this paper, but Shermer and Dawkins? Here I think the only explanation is the natural tendency to reading the historical documents the presuppositions of our own current thinking. An important warning of the dangers of doing this

  2. I will be using this in writing for 3 Quarks Daily early in the New Year, in reference to whether Muslim world thinkers anticipated evolution, and the problem of seeing material as it would have appeared to its contemporaries

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