During their lifetimes, Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin shared credit and fame for the independent and near-simultaneous discovery of natural selection. Together, the two men spearheaded one of the greatest intellectual revolutions in modern history, and their rivalry, usually amicable but occasionally acrimonious, forged modern evolutionary theory. Yet today, few people today know much about Wallace.
"The Heretic in Darwin's Court" explores the controversial life and scientific contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace -- Victorian traveler, scientist, spiritualist, and co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of natural selection. After examining his early years, the biography turns to Wallace's twelve years of often harrowing travels in the western and eastern tropics, which place him in the pantheon of the greatest explorer-naturalists of the nineteenth century. Tracing step-by-step his discovery of natural selection -- a piece of scientific detective work as revolutionary in its implications as the discovery of the structure of DNA -- the book then follows the remaining fifty years of Wallace's eccentric and entertaining life. In addition to his divergence from Darwin on two fundamental issues -- sexual selection and the origin of the human mind -- he pursued topics that most scientific figures of his day conspicuously avoided, including spiritualism, phrenology, mesmerism, environmentalism, and life on Mars.
Although there may be disagreement about his conclusions, Wallace's intellectual investigations into the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe itself remain some of the most inspired scientific accomplishments in history. This authoritative biography casts new light on the life and work of Alfred Russel Wallace and the importance of his twenty-five-year relationship with Charles Darwin.
Slotten does a very good job of contextualizing this critical moment in the history of biology within the life and times of Wallace... Slotten's enjoyable exposition provides insight into the scientific process and the role of class structure in Victorian England. Publishers Weekly Slotten's meticulously researched biography explores Wallace's scientifically 'heretical' interests in a bunch of late Victorian 'isms,' that range from socialism to spiritualism and extraterrestrial life. -- Douglas Palmer New Scientist Slotten's text recounts [Wallace's] life in great detail, giving as much emphasis to his early life and later years as to his time as a collector and naturalist. If a library can support only one book, Slotten's provides the richness of the complete life. Library Journal Slotten's new life study illuminates an unpredictable genius who cut a wide swath in Victorian culture... But Slotten surpasses earlier biographers in detailing the complex personal relationship between the two biologists. Booklist, starred review ...quite accessible to general audiences... -- Michele Fabricant Science Books & Films That sympathy, Slotten's predilection for quirky detials, and his talent for imaginative investigation often make Wallace and his world spring to life. -- Menno Schilthuizen Natural History This is a good, old-fashioned, beautifully written biography, devoid of pretension and with both a wonderful eye for detail and an impressive command of history and fact. -- Oren Solomon Harman American Scientist fine picks for modern college-level collections. Bookwatch Slotten's book is the most detailed study of its kind published to date and provides a vivid account of Wallace's rich 90-year life. -- George Beccaloni Nature This biography revives the remarkable work of this world explorer and naturalist. Stanford Slotten's book is a pleasure to read and provides a well-researched and detailed account...It is highly recommended reading. -- D. Futuyma Evolution A highly readable and entertaining account of the life, travels, and thought of one of the nineteenth century's most eccentric and insightful scientists. Northeastern Naturalist Excellent job of profiling the man's life. -- Charles H. Smith European Molecular Biology and Organization Well-crafted biography...highly recommended. Choice Six full biographies of Wallace have been published since 2000...and this latest is the most complete. -- Charles H. Smith Journal of the History of Biology The 20 chapters in Slotten's book brilliantly explore the different facets of Wallace. -- Allen Keast Quarterly Review of Biology Keen eye and easy style -- David A. Feller Bulletin of the Pacific Circle Slotten's biography... offers a balanced and thorough account of Wallace's long and varied career. -- Jane R. Camerini Reports of the National Center for Science Education