Wallace in Borneo – Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero – BBC (2013)

The theory of evolution was co-discovered independently by two biologists that lived within the same time period. Darwin and Wallace were well known in their time but Wallace’s name gradually has been overshadowed by Darwin. Today we rarely (almost never) hear the name Alfred Russell Wallace. In the past there have been a few documentaries making a rare attempt to focus on the biography of this very influential biologist including an episode in Jacob Bronowski’s 1973 The Ascent of Man series The Ladder of Creation and The Forgotten Voyage (1983) by Peter Crawford. The two part BBC documentary introduces us to the extraordinarily strong and passionate character of Wallace and details his voyage in Malay Archipelago.

A century after his death 2013 was a commemorative year for Wallace. In 2013 Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s BioInteractive portal launched a documentary covering biographies of both scientists.

Islands were truly eye opening for both Darwin and Wallace. Galapagos and Malay Archipelago formed the perfect setting for them to relate their observations with evolving species. Just like the Galapagos finches and Tortoises gave clues to Darwin, distribution of many animals and plants including birdwing butterflies gave clues to Wallace. In his 1855 the ‘Sarawak law’ paper he states:

‘the following law may be deduced from these [preceding] facts: Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species.’

While he was looking for the legendary and elusive birds of paradise he discovered the dividing line between the fauna of Asia and Australia known as the Wallace’s Line.

 

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