- Paperback: 444 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 25, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199856532
- ISBN-13: 978-0199856534
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,487,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History 1st Edition
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From Library Journal
Wallace is nearly unknown today, but he was revered as one of the preeminent naturalists of the Victorian age. Accorded the rank of "codiscoverer" of the theory of natural selection (ranking second only to Charles Darwin), Wallace spent twice as much time as Darwin collecting specimens during ocean voyages and in remote jungles. What he didn't do was devote years formulating his observations into evolutionary theory; instead, he started with the theory of natural selection and then set about finding the data to prove it. It was his initial draft that spurred Darwin to publish, without further delay, his first paper outlining the theory of evolution. This new biography details the distinct differences in their viewpoints of natural selection. Despite Wallace's tremendous intellect and contributions to science, his foray into and support of spiritualism, sances, and phrenology tarnished his credibility and standing. Shermer is founding publisher and editor in chief of Skeptic magazine, the author of several popular science books, and considered an authority on the heretical personality. His expertise in analyzing the life and paradoxical beliefs of this complex man elevate "the last great Victorian" to a position of prominence as one of the significant leaders in modern science. Highly recommended for all academic and larger public library science collections. Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll. Lib., Kansas City, MO
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Last year, Peter Raby's Alfred Russell Wallace [BKL Ag 01] offered a deeply sympathetic portrait of the controversial co-discoverer of natural selection, largely accepting him on his own eccentric terms. Now, in this complementary study, the editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine applies the tools of objective science to probe the enigmatic psychology of this pioneering thinker, who embarrassed many of his professional colleagues by entangling himself in both radical politics and bizarre spiritualism. Sociological theories of birth order, social class, and parental separation hint at why Wallace developed a heretic personality, attracted to subversive science (evolution), to outre religion (spiritualism), and radical politics (gender and racial egalitarianism). Though this theoretical framework does clarify and unify the disparate elements of Wallace's life, the scientist's admirers may protest that it reduces Wallace to merely another case study in irrationalism. But other readers will applaud Shermer for the toughmindedness necessary to sever Wallace's laudable openmindedness in doing biology or advancing political causes from his dubious naivete in frequenting the seance. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The danger in Shermer's approach is that it breeds preconception and red-herring...whether Wallace's ideas on dozens of different subjects might have been seriously under-examined in the context of modern times?
On the other hand, between Shermer and Raby and the numerous other studies and anthologies of the past few years we now have a solid foundation of *identity* upon which to move ahead. Shermer's work is well written and carefully constructed (though there are some typos and factual errors: for example, Wallace's visit to California included a trip to the *future* site of Stanford University, not its operating one, as Shermer implies), and covers the main biographical points more than adequately. Hopefully, this will be the last of the necessary "continuing preludes" to Wallace studies, and we can now move on to some more revealing insights.
Shermer has done a superb job of researching the life of Wallace. This book is very readable. It should appeal to anyone who is interested in the topic of evolution, but just as importantly (if not more so) on the topic of science itself, on scientific methods, the history of science and the philosophy f science. It also illuminates the zeitgeist during Darwin and Wallace's days.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is very good.
Shermer's attempt to identify Wallace as a "heretic personality" is vague and inconsistly applied. The claim that Wallace succumbed to scientism is so wide of the mark that once the astonishment of the claim wears off one is left wondering if Shermer ever really read Wallace!
This is simply the worst of an increasing number of Wallace biographies. Ill conceived and poorly argued, for those seeking to know this fascinating naturalist better almost any starting place would be better than here. My suggestion? Start with Wallace himself, MY LIFE: A Record of Events and Opinion.