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Darwin Didn't Plagiarize Wallace

19th century shipping records defy the claim that Charles Darwin stole some of Alfred Russel Wallace's ideas to craft his theory of evolution.

By | December 13, 2011

Charles Darwin in 1881WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, ELLIOTT & FRY

New evidence is casting doubt on the popular belief that Charles Darwin may have borrowed some ideas from naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace when developing his theory of evolution by natural selection. The story goes that in 1858 Wallace, studying the biogeography of the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia, wrote a letter to Darwin outlining his thoughts on how nature might select the most advantageous traits among living things in such a way that species could change forms and functions gradually over long periods of time. Darwin was to deliver Wallace's letter to renowned geologist Charles Lyell immediately, but instead lied about the date he received the correspondence, held onto it for two weeks, and cribbed from it to add to his own ideas on evolution.

But historians of science at the National University of Singapore traced the journey of Wallace's letter from Indonesia to England using historical shipping records and have concluded that the letter couldn't have arrived at Darwin's door any earlier then June 18, the day he delivered it to Lyell. They published their analysis in this month's issue of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Though most historians of science don't believe that Darwin plagiarized Wallace in any way, the popular fraud theory has lived on for many years. And according to at least one such scholar, this new evidence will do little to dispel it. "For a variety of different motives, there will, I fear, always be people who see it as their mission to attack Darwin's character as a way of undermining his remarkable scientific achievements," University of Pittsburgh historian of science James Lennox told Nature.

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Avatar of: david.harrison

david.harrison

Posts: 28

December 15, 2011

If you read Darwin, for example Origin of the Species, you see an impressive and honest person dealing with vital questions and examining ideas from every direction for years before going public. Darwin makes me proud to be human.

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Posts: 0

December 15, 2011

If you read Darwin, for example Origin of the Species, you see an impressive and honest person dealing with vital questions and examining ideas from every direction for years before going public. Darwin makes me proud to be human.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 15, 2011

If you read Darwin, for example Origin of the Species, you see an impressive and honest person dealing with vital questions and examining ideas from every direction for years before going public. Darwin makes me proud to be human.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 16, 2011

Folks who took in the 2008-09 touring museum exhibition on the life and work of Charles Darwin (commenmorating the 200th anniversary of his birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species"), may remember one of the letters in the exhibit -- it was from A.R. Wallace to Charles Lyell.  In it, Wallace remarks to Lyell that upon reading "On the Origin of Species", he was profoundly struck at the depth and detail to which Darwin had theorized about natural selection, compared to his own research on the concept.  In short, Wallace acknowledged Darwin's primacy in the development of the theory of natural selection, and never felt that he had been plagiarized by Darwin. Take that conspiracy theorists!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 16, 2011

Folks who took in the 2008-09 touring museum exhibition on the life and work of Charles Darwin (commenmorating the 200th anniversary of his birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species"), may remember one of the letters in the exhibit -- it was from A.R. Wallace to Charles Lyell.  In it, Wallace remarks to Lyell that upon reading "On the Origin of Species", he was profoundly struck at the depth and detail to which Darwin had theorized about natural selection, compared to his own research on the concept.  In short, Wallace acknowledged Darwin's primacy in the development of the theory of natural selection, and never felt that he had been plagiarized by Darwin. Take that conspiracy theorists!

Avatar of: Ian Colquhoun

Ian Colquhoun

Posts: 1

December 16, 2011

Folks who took in the 2008-09 touring museum exhibition on the life and work of Charles Darwin (commenmorating the 200th anniversary of his birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species"), may remember one of the letters in the exhibit -- it was from A.R. Wallace to Charles Lyell.  In it, Wallace remarks to Lyell that upon reading "On the Origin of Species", he was profoundly struck at the depth and detail to which Darwin had theorized about natural selection, compared to his own research on the concept.  In short, Wallace acknowledged Darwin's primacy in the development of the theory of natural selection, and never felt that he had been plagiarized by Darwin. Take that conspiracy theorists!

Avatar of: hippyatheart

hippyatheart

Posts: 2

January 12, 2012

The new apologists for Darwin are claiming that the letter Wallace sent from Ternate went on the April steamer rather than the March steamer, as had previously been thought. They are ignoring Wallace's own words about February 1858, "...and in the two succeeding evenings wrote it out in full, and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin." That would have been the March steamer.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 12, 2012

The new apologists for Darwin are claiming that the letter Wallace sent from Ternate went on the April steamer rather than the March steamer, as had previously been thought. They are ignoring Wallace's own words about February 1858, "...and in the two succeeding evenings wrote it out in full, and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin." That would have been the March steamer.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

January 12, 2012

The new apologists for Darwin are claiming that the letter Wallace sent from Ternate went on the April steamer rather than the March steamer, as had previously been thought. They are ignoring Wallace's own words about February 1858, "...and in the two succeeding evenings wrote it out in full, and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin." That would have been the March steamer.

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