Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

200 × 130 × 10 mm
208 pages
35 illustrations
11 Mar 2019
Critical Lives

Alfred Russel Wallace Patrick H. Armstrong

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Father of Biogeography’, Alfred Russel Wallace is known as the co-founder of the theory of evolution, and was well-versed in zoology, botany, anthropology, politics, astronomy and psychology. Although notorious for his unpopular and eccentric beliefs, he is still recognized as one of the leading figures in nineteenth-century British science.

Patrick Armstrong describes Wallace’s long life, from 1823 to the eve of World War I, and shows him to be, in many ways, a more interesting character than his fellow scientist Charles Darwin. This compact yet comprehensive biography takes a psychological approach to give insight into a man who was plagued with misfortune: legal issues, obtaining full-time employment, and relationship troubles all vexed him. The book unlocks the life of a restless traveller who, although he grew up with an ‘ordinary’ education, became one of the most influential scientists of his time.

‘The book is well illustrated, comprehensive and is presented in a direct and readable manner, displaying clearly the many sides of Wallace’s scientific career. The author gives us an enjoyably fascinating journey through Wallace’s life story, noting that “Wallace[’s] attributes were supreme courage and persistence, almost to the point of foolishness.” Perhaps, reading here of the massive contribution Wallace made to scientific knowledge, we might conclude that we all need to display a little foolishness from time to time!’ — Magonia Review of Books

Show all

Patrick H. Armstrong is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia. His many books include All Things Darwin: An Encyclopedia of Darwin's World (2007) and Darwin’s Luck: Chance and Fortune in the life and Work of Charles Darwin (2009).


1 Early Life
2 South American Journey
3 Eight Years in Southeast Asia
4 The Natural Selection Insight and Its Aftermath
5 The Maturing Scientist
6 The Radical and the Heretic
7 To the End of the Universe
8 ‘A Contented Man’
9 Some Thoughts on Wallace’s Mind and Character

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements