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DARWIN'S ALTER EGO: CO-ORIGINATOR ALFRED WALLACE RALPH E. BERNSTEIN* The 1982 centenary ofCharles Robert Darwin's death brought forth a spate of celebrations, with meetings reported from his alma mater, Cambridge [1], and Johannesburg [2-4], and also a miscellany of proceedings and symposia—for example, "Charles Darwin—a hundred Years On" (International Symposiumjoint Linnean Society-Systematics Association, London, September 1982), "The History of Evolutionary Controversy" (symposium, Society for the Study of Evolution and American Society of Naturalists, State University of New York at Stony Brook, New York, June 1982) and "Darwinism" (summer meeting, American Society of Arts and Sciences, Philadelphia, 1982), to list but a few. In addition, D. W. Hull, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, has focused on "The Essence of Darwinism" as the Sigma Xi national lecturer for 1982-1983. An appropriate short list ofnew and topical publications [5-10] has also paid tribute to one of science's foremost immortals and mankind's preeminent thinkers. The role ofnatural selection in evolutionary mechanisms, and Darwinian gradualism relative to the punctuated equilibrium mode, is currently being reassessed [11, 12]. It would reflect poorly oh the oft-claimed exponential increase in scientific investigation and knowledge over the past 100 years for a theory (any theory) not to undergo alterations and amplifications with time. Darwin himselfwould have been the first to accept this, and indeed, the third (April 30, 1861) to sixth (January 1872) editions ofOn the Origin of Species contain numerous corrections, emendations, and additions. Incidentally , in today's atmosphere of"publish or perish" [13], would Darwin have been able to withhold the theory for some 21 years (1838-1859) * Former head, Metabolic Research and Human Biochemical Genetics Unit, South African Institute for Medical Research, and professor of metabolic disorders, School ofPathology , University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Present address: Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, Medical School, University of the Witwatersrand , York Road, Parktown, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa.© 1984 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0031-5982/84/2702-0365$01.00 234 J Ralph E. Bernstein ¦ Darwin'sAlterEgo and still attain scientific preeminence? For when Darwin speculated on the role of natural selection in evolution in 1838 [14] and wrote out a 35-page rough pencil essay in 1842, which was only found in 1896 and published in 1909 [15]; and a 230-page essay in 1844, first published in 1909 [15]; and a 130,000-word incomplete manuscript in 1856-1858 in 11 chapters, which was only discovered in 1957 in the University of Cambridge Library [16], it was a well-kept secret between himself and a few scientific friends, who included Charles Lyell, Joseph Hooker, and Asa Gray. But what of Alfred Rüssel Wallace? [17]1 The balance of known evidence is against Darwin's having cheated on receiving Wallace's natural selection memoir from Ternate, Moluccas, onJune 18, 1858, as has been suggested recently [18]. Nevertheless, McKinney [19] has presented substantial and circumstantial evidence that Darwin could have received Wallace's letter and paper as early as June 3. Thus the arrangements made by Lyell and Hooker to present the Darwin-Wallace communications at the meeting of the Linnean Society (of which Wallace was not a member) on Thursday, July 1, 1858, were contrived and calculated. Neither the presentation nor its subsequent publication [20] in January 1859 made any impact on the scientific community. Contrary to various popular accounts, the meeting attracted little attention "in London town by the Thames." Both the main speaker and the chairman were staunch antievolutionists, while the presentation was at the very end of the meeting and evoked no formal discussion. For a briefperiod the concept was spoken of as the Darwin-Wallace theory of natural selection. Furthermore , it was a poor time for meetings, and the meteorologie record indicates that it was a hot and humid day. But Wallace's 12-page paper, ofwhich Darwin said "he could not have made a better short abstract," was the catalyst, the igniter that forced Darwin with his "abstract" ofdie 1856-1858 manuscript to face up to the public, scientific and theological, for approval and acceptance or rejection . It was the appearance...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 234-238
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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