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Darwin and Wallace

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Darwin and Wallace Contribution
Evolution is referred to the process of change in the genetic make-up of a species over time. It’s used to explain the emergence of new species. Evolutionary theory holds that existing species of plants animals have over millions of years from simple organism. Although the theory of evolution is usually associated with Charles Darwin, idea that modern plants and animals could change was posited by a number of scholars prior to the mid 1800’s, but none of the earlier theorist suggested a unified theory that explained evolution. (Scupin, 48) Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace both developed natural selection by combining their studies, but there were major differences in their life-experiences. Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England on February 12, 1809 and died on April 19, 1882, in Downe, England. His father was Robert Darwin, a famous medical doctor, and he wanted Darwin to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor, but Darwin was more interested in natural history. He was raised in a wealthy household and he loved to explore nature. As a child he was not fond of his English public school he would prefer to go outside and explore in the family garden. He attended Christ College in Cambridge where he received his Bachelors of Art Degree in 1831, his professor recommended him for a naturalist’s position aboard the HMS Beagle. During his five year tour around the world voyage on The Beagel it that proved to be an opportunity of a lifetime for him because during his tour he was able to conduct researched and experimented with different plants and animals. His tour sparked his interest in evolutionary theory about the origin of living beings that was contrary to other naturalist during this time. He noticed the similarities among species all over the globe based on their specific locations, leading him to believe that they had gradually evolved from their common ancestors to adapt with their new environment. (Encyclopedia Britannica.com) Another 19th century naturalist along with Charles Wallace that developed an explanation for evolutionary change was Alfred Wallace. He was born January 8, 1823, Monmouthshire, Wales and died on November 7, 1913 in Broadstone, Dorset, England. Unlike Darwin, Wallace was raised in a poor household with both of his parents and eight siblings. Although his family lacked the financial security to allow their children better education, he attended only six years of schooling at the Hertford Grammar School. He worked as an apprentice surveyor for his brother William. According Jane R. Camerini article in the Encyclopedia Britannica, as a surveyor, Wallace spent a great deal of time outdoors, both for work and pleasure. He was an enthusiastic amateur naturalist with an intellectual bent, he read widely in natural history, history, and political economy, including works by William Swainson, Charles Darwin, Alexander von Humboldt, and Thomas Malthus. Inspired by reading about organic evolution in Robert Chambers’ controversial Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in 1844, he and his friend, Henry Walter Bates, set on a four year journey to learn about the of unexplored regions of the Amazon River basin. After returning and publishing several books, he was off to his next venture to Maya Archipelago for eight years. During his journey he collected biological specimen and wrote scientific articles, which he posed an assumption that “every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species,” which Wallace expressed in one of his first publishing in 1855 of articles focused on the origin of new species. Wallace then proposed that new species arise by the progression and continued divergence of varieties that outlive the parent species in the struggle for existence. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace was both impressed by the variation in living species and their interaction with the environment they independently developed and explanation of why it occurred and the basic mechanism of evolution known as natural selection. (Scupin, 49) Natural selection is defined as the process by which traits become more or less common in a population due to consistent effects upon the survival or reproduction of their bearers. Darwin and Wallace both followed the studies of Thomas Malthus who published Essays on the Principles of Population. Malthus focus was on the human population growth and constraints on that limited food supplies had on population size. Based on the studies of Malthus, Darwin and Wallace realized that most species produce many more offspring than is necessary to maintain a constant population, but some species may be born with particular characteristic or traits that make them better able to survive. (Scupin, 49) According to Robin Mckie, a writer for Guardian News and Media, explained that Darwin and Wallace evolutionary theory was based on four key parts. The first key is in creatures of the same species differ from each other in ways that are inherited, which is known as variation. An example is provided by the giant tortoises of the Galapagos archipelago, which Darwin studied in detail. Among those born to the same parents some have genetically different features. The second key is that most creatures are born in a population than can survive. The third key is that some are creatures are born with certain characteristics to help better survive than other species. The final key is characteristic are passed on to the next generation as life evolves.
In 1858 Darwin and Wallace idea of evolution was read during a session at the Linnaean Society in London. During the reading Wallace expounded on his observation while on his expedition to the Amazon and Malaysia. Darwin also provided information about is extensive studies during his voyage on the Beagle and other parts of the world. The following year after the reading at the Linnaean Society Darwin published The Origin of Species. The only unclear information was how hereditary traits were transmitted from one offspring to another. This missing key factor sparked the interest of Gregor J. Mendel, who begins a series of breeding experiments with pea plants that revolutionized biological thoughts that laid the groundwork for genetics. (Scupin, 51) All and all, Wallace and Darwin set the foundation for future scientist. “Future ages will certainly look back on us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher consideration," said Alfred Wallace.

Cite Works
Raymond Scupin and Christoper DeCorse, Anthropology A Global Perspective, 2012
Jane R. Camerini, Alfred Russell Wallace, Encyclopedia Britannica site,http://www.bitannica.com
Adrian Desmond, Charles Darwin, Encyclopedia Britannica site, http://www.bitannica.com
Robin Mckie, “How Darwin Won the Evolution Race”, http://www.theguardian.com

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