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In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History


In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Virtually unknown today, Alfred Russel Wallace was the co-discoverer of natural selection with Charles Darwin and an eminent scientist who stood out among his Victorian peers as a man of formidable mind and equally outsized personality. Now Michael Shermer rescues Wallace from the shadow of Darwin in this landmark biography.

Here we see Wallace as perhaps the greatest naturalist of his age--spending years in remote jungles, collecting astounding quantities of specimens, writing thoughtfully and with bemused detachment at his reception in places where no white man had ever gone. Here, too, is his supple and forceful intelligence at work, grappling with such arcane problems as the bright coloration of caterpillars, or shaping his 1858 paper on natural selection that prompted Darwin to publish (with Wallace) the first paper outlining the theory of evolution. Shermer also shows that Wallace's self-trained intellect, while powerful, also embraced surprisingly naive ideas, such as his deep interest in the study of spiritual manifestations and seances. Shermer shows that the same iconoclastic outlook that led him to overturn scientific orthodoxy as he worked in relative isolation also led him to embrace irrational beliefs, and thus tarnish his reputation.

As author of Why People Believe Weird Things and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, Shermer is an authority on why people embrace the irrational. Now he turns his keen judgment and incisive analysis to Wallace's life and his contradictory beliefs, restoring a leading figure in the rise of modern science to his rightful place.

About the Author

Michael Shermer is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, executive director of the Skeptics Society, and a monthly columnist for Scientific American. An adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University, he is also the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at CalTech. He lives in Southern California.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface: Genesis and Revelation

Prologue. The Psychology of Biography

1. Uncertain Beginnings

2. The Evolution of a Naturalist

3. Breaching the Walls of a Species Citadel

4. The Mystery of Mysteries Solved

5. A Gentlemanly Arrangement

6. Scientific Heresy and Ideological Murder

7. A Scientist Among the Spiritualists

8. Heretical Thoughts

9. Heretical Culture

10. Heretic Personality

11. The Last Great Victorian

12. The Life of Wallace and the Nature of History

Epilogue. Psychobiography and the Science of History


Appendix I: Wallace Archival Sources

Appendix II: Wallace's Published Works



Product Details

Shermer, Michael
Oxford University Press, USA
Life Sciences | History & Philosophy of Biology
History of Science-General
Publication Date:
56 halftones and maps
6.1 x 9.2 x 1 in 1.369 lb

Related Subjects

Biography » Science and Technology
Biography » Social Scientists and Psychologists
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History New Trade Paper
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Product details 444 pages Oxford University Press, USA - English 9780199856534 Reviews:
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