8 gennaio. Anniversario della nascita di A.R. Wallace

L’8 gennaio 1863, 188 anni fa, nasceva in Galles Alfred Russel Wallace. Ma chi era costui?
Si tratta di uno degli studiosi più importanti (e sottovalutati) di sempre. Basti dire che senza di lui forse non ci sarebbe la teoria dell’evoluzione…

Alfred Russel Wallace
A.R.Wallace – scansione dal libro ‘Darwin 1809-2009’ di Niles Eldredge

Davide Bertè 5 gennaio 2011

L’8 gennaio 1823, 188 anni fa, nasceva in Galles Alfred Russel Wallace. Ma chi era costui?
Si tratta di uno degli studiosi più importanti (e sottovalutati) di sempre. Basti dire che senza di lui forse non ci sarebbe la teoria dell’evoluzione… Ma procediamo con ordine.
Figlio di una famiglia di ceto medio, ottavo di nove figli, non godeva certo dei privilegi di un Charles Darwin (che proveniva da una famiglia benestante). Nel 1847 si imbarcò, insieme all’amico Bates, per l’Amazzonia, dove trascorse circa 14 anni raccogliendo insetti da vendere in Europa a ricchi collezionisti. Qui cominciò a osservare che le specie presentano varietà differenti in varie località… Durante il viaggio di ritorno un incendio alla nave su cui viaggiava causò la perdita di gran parte del materiale raccolto e degli appunti presi.
In seguito Wallace si recò nell’arcipelago malese. Qui si ammalò e rimase bloccato a Ternate. Durante il periodo della malattia cominciò a scrivere un articolo in cui faceva delle riflessioni basate su un saggio di Malthus (Saggio sul principio di popolazione) e sulle sue osservazioni.
Nel 1856 Wallace, che nel 1855 aveva già pubblicato un saggio dal titolo Sulla legge che ha regolato la comparsa di nuove specie, cominciò una corrispondenza con il ben più famoso Charles Darwin in Inghilterra. Darwin all’epoca non aveva ancora pubblicato nulla sulla teoria dell’evoluzione, ma aveva già cominciato, in privato, a lavorarci.
Ricevuto il manoscritto di Wallace, con la richiesta di presentarlo alla Società Linneana, notò con sconcerto che conteneva delle idee molto simili a quelle su cui stava lavorando lui stesso. Gli amici Joseph Hooker e Charles Lyell, che erano al corrente del suo lavoro, gli consigliarono di far uscire, contemporaneamente, una nota congiunta. Leggi tutto “8 gennaio. Anniversario della nascita di A.R. Wallace”

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