Alfred Wallace: the peculiar Victorian character

April 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

As for now it is clear that I’m about to take on another adventure. This time it will last a little longer, hopefully 6 months. All I can think about now is the gear I have to bring, what kind of exciting and interesting settings I will encounter. I am astonished of this confidence myself, I hope this is a good sign.

I read about Alfred Wallace in March edition of international National Geographic Magazine. He was an explorer and a scientist. He was not initially wealthy but he had incredible curiosity. He collected species for commercial trade but he also carefully documented his findings and eventually published them. He didn’t have an easy journey and so it was obvious that he loved what he was doing.

For Indonesians, perhaps we are aware of the Wallace line, the line that geographically mark biodiversity between the western and middle/eastern part of Indonesia (picture shown below, from He was recognized as the founder of biodiversity, although his academic reputation was still outranked by Charles Darwin.


It was said that in National Geographic, “Besides being one of the greatest field biologist of the 19th century, he was a man of crotchety independence and lurching enthusiasm, a restless soul never quite satisfied with the place in which he lived, a believer in spiritualism… who by these and his eccentricities gave his detractors some grounds for dismissing him as a crank.

The question that no scholar or biographer has adequately answered is: How to reconcile such brilliant achievements, radical convictions and incautious zealotries within one human character… If he hadn’t existed, this Alfred Wallace, it would’ve taken a very peculiar Victorian novelist to create him.

During his Malay expedition, Wallace had traveled 14.000 miles within the Malay archipelago alone, made 60-70 separate journeys, and collected 125.660 specimens. Fame was not important to him; ideas were. He had traveled far and widely, both in geographical space and intellectual breadth.”

It’s easiest to take the safe path, the same as everybody else, and achieve only what so many others achieved. However, some people have taken the road less traveled. And even fewer brave seekers open their own paths and build their own roads and bridges; allowing the universe to guide them in a unique journey they consider sacred.

– multatuli – 11/4/09


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