Tracing Alfred Russel Wallace’s Footsteps Through the Jungles of Borneo

Tracing Alfred Russel Wallace’s Footsteps Through the Jungles of Borneo

A biologist treks to the site where the little-known naturalist penned a paper on evolution that would spur on a rivalrous Charles Darwin

Some of the ‘remarkable beetles’ Wallace collected in Borneo. ( A. R. Wallace, CC BY)

By Giacomo Bernardi, The Conversation

smithsonian.com

The chirping of cicadas is deafening, my clothes are sticky and heavy with heat and sweat, my right hand is swollen from ant bites, I am panting, almost passing out from exhaustion – and I have a big grin on my face. At last I’ve reached my goal, Rajah Brooke’s cottage, at the top of Bukit Peninjau, a hill in the middle of Borneo’s jungle.

This is where, in February 1855, naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote his hugely influential “Sarawak Law” paper. It’s as crucial to Wallace’s own thinking in disentangling the mechanisms of evolution as the Galàpagos Islands famously were to his contemporary, Charles Darwin…