History

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace

In the north choir aisle, next to Charles Darwin’s memorial, is a white marble roundel with a profile relief bust to the memory of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. This is by the sculptor Albert Bruce-Joy and was erected in 1915. The inscription reads:

ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE 1823-1913

Wallace was born on 8 January 1823 in Usk, South Wales, one of many children of Thomas Vere Wallace and his wife Mary (Greenell). He started his career as a surveyor and had at first just an amateur interest in botany and geology. In 1848 he began a natural history collecting expedition to the Amazon and in 1854 went to Malaysia. Independently of Darwin he formed a theory of evolution by natural selection or ‘survival of the fittest’ and in 1858 he and Darwin publicly announced it in a joint paper to the Linnean Society. In 1866 he married Annie Mitten (d.1914) and they had two children (Violet and William). He published his book The Malay Archipelago in 1869 and by the end of his life was known as ‘the Grand Old Man of Science’. He died on 7 November 1913 at Broadstone, near Wimborne, in Dorset and was buried there.

A photograph of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

A.R.Wallace “My Life...”, 2 volumes 1905
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004