Alfred Russel Wallace is famously described as Darwin’s Moon. In which case I’m pleased to howl in his support, whenever I get the chance. Although Wallace came up with the same idea, it was Darwin, the older man, the established natural philosopher scientist and wealthy country gentleman, whose name is now primarily linked with evolution and natural selection. Especially in the public mind, Wallace has been eclipsed.
When I had a short-term contract to sort through Frederick Horniman’s collection of exotic beetles (mostly showy and brightly coloured chafers and longhorns) still housed in the Horniman Museum, it was a thrilling discovery to come across several specimens collected by Wallace in Aru, Ternate and other Indonesian islands either side of the Wallace Line.
So it was with great pleasure that I found I was able to weave Wallace into the pages of Mosquito. I couldn’t believe the rich vein of mosquito references in his books, the importance he laid on his mosquito netting, and the deliciously neat way that malaria runs straight on to his ‘cold fit of ague’ in Ternate where he wrote that concise and focussed essay ‘On the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely form the original type’ that he mailed to Darwin.
The original ‘Ternate’ essay reproduced after Darwin’s at the Linnean Society meeting is here.
The first proofs of Mosquito have arrived, and I’m bouncing with excitement to show off a few pages. So here is my homage to Wallace. These are screen-grabs from the uncorrected first PDF proofs, and I know that his name is spelled wrongly in the figure captions.