ARTICLES: Wallaceism, Darwin and murder in the French popular press, and Darwin and coral reefs

In the journal Nineteenth Century Studies:

Tracking the Rise and Fall of Wallaceism: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Darwinism and Its Transatlantic Influences

Lauren Cameron

Abstract Alfred Russel Wallace is generally presented as a footnote in scientific and cultural history, a young man whose letter spurred Darwin to publish his epoch-making On the Origin of Species, but little else. A spate of recent scholarly interest in him has, however, worked to recover his important and multifaceted place in British cultural history. This essay examines his positioning of himself as the standard bearer of Darwinian thought toward the end of his life and after much of Darwin’s scientific circle had died. His 1889 Darwinism subversively rewrites Darwin’s ideas and promotes what this article terms Wallaceism, a version of Darwinian evolutionary theory in which he positions himself as Darwin’s champion but also alters some of Darwin’s arguments in light of his own 1886–87 lecture tour of America. Analyzing public discourse on Wallace’s cultural reception from Anglo-American periodicals using both quantitative and qualitative methods, this essay comes to consider his rise to cultural prominence in the United States at the turn of the century and his subsequent fall.

In the journal Isis:

A Darwinian Murder: The Role of the Barré-Lebiez Affair in the Diffusion of Darwinism in Nineteenth-Century France

Liv Grjebine

Abstract Most studies on the reception of Darwinism in France focus on the scientific community. This essay investigates the popular press. Widely discussed in French newspapers in 1878, Darwinism was connected with a sensational murder case in which two well-educated young men, Aimé Barré and Paul Lebiez, killed an elderly woman. Before his arrest, Lebiez had given a public lecture on the Darwinian “struggle for life.” Competing factions of the press explicitly linked the case with Darwinism to advance either conservative or republican political agendas, which brought Darwinism into the public eye. This essay argues that Charles Darwin’s instrumentalization was decisive in spreading his theory in French society. That same year, the Academy of Sciences elected Darwin to membership after six failed attempts.

In the Journal of the History of Biology:

Alexander Dalrymple, the Utility of Coral Reefs, and Charles Darwin’s Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs

Ali Mirza

Abstract This paper aims to establish the connection between the theoretical and practical aims of the Office of the Hydrographer of the British Admiralty and Charles Darwin’s (1809–1882) work on coral reefs from 1835 to 1842. I also emphasize the consistent zoological as well as geological reasoning contained in these texts. The Office’s influences have been previously overlooked, despite the Admiralty’s interest in using coral reefs as natural instruments. I elaborate on this by introducing the work of Alexander Dalrymple (1737–1808), the first hydrographer of the Admiralty and a figure who has flown under the radar of the history of coral reef theories. I show that Dalrymple introduced a unified account of coral reefs in which multiple features of the coral reefs, such as their shape, slope of the sides, ridges, channels, and elevation relative to the water, were all explained by the action of the winds and waves—and proposed that one could use these features to predict seafaring conditions around the islands. Then, I show that Darwin’s “Coral Islands” (1835) and his Coral Reefs monograph (1842) spoke to these hydrographical issues and did so, at times, by way of zoological reasoning. It was, for instance, the coral behavior and the related notion of a zoological or botanical station that ultimately proved the biggest blow to the Admiralty’s aim to use the coral reefs as instruments because it eroded many uniform predictions regarding the past or future of a coral reef. Connecting these themes leads us to a surprising conclusion: that Darwin’s theory of coral reefs, long a model instance of Darwin making uniform predictable inferences, was, in actuality, also his first formal encounter with something at times the entire opposite.

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