In the mid-1850s, a young English naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace journeyed to the Malay Archipelago, where he would spend eight years in what he later called "the central and controlling incident" of his life. Collecting data on the plant and animal life of the then-remote islands, Wallace slowly formulated ideas of the origins and divergence of species. In 1858, he sent a manuscript containing some of those ideas to Charles Darwin, who incorporated Wallace's work in his theory of natural selection--and who, some critics have charged, appropriated many of Wallace's discoveries as his own.
In this richly illustrated book, historian Gavan Daws and biologist Marty Fujita follow Wallace's trail through the islands of Indonesia, visiting the Moluccas, Bali, Irian Jaya, and other extraordinary treasuries of biological diversity--for, as they point out, although Indonesia comprises only 1.3 percent of the world's surface, it harbors nearly a quarter of the world's species. Their naturalistic travelogue includes a careful discussion of Wallace's ideas and of how he came to hold them through the course of his remarkable body of fieldwork. In doing so, they emphasize the importance of Wallace's contributions to demographics, the theory of island biodiversity, and other tenets of modern biological thought. The result is an unusually instructive, and unusually handsome, book of scientific adventure. --Gregory McNamee
From Library Journal
The Indonesian archipelago was the natural laboratory of 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace who developed the theory of evolution at the same time as and independently of Charles Darwin. This lavishly illustrated book traces his explorations and comments on the biodiversity crisis that will affect the 21st century. The authors (Daws is a historian and Fujita is founding director of The Nature Conservancy's Indonesia program) do a fine job of interspersing excerpts from Wallace's journals and papers, along with their narrative of his exploits, with modern descriptions of flora, fauna, and conservation needs. Chapters dealing with individual islands, or groups of islands, begin with Wallace's experiences there and continue to current descriptions of conditions and concerns. The magnificent color photographs work well to support the text. This book serves as an urgent call for awareness and conservation of these unique and important islands. Useful in many subject collections, including evolution, biodiversity, natural history, and travel, and suitable for all public libraries.-Nancy J. Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
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