Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/400

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396
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE ORIGIN OF THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION[1]
By Dr. A. R. WALLACE

I BEG to thank the council of the Linnean Society for the very great honor they have done me, in coupling my name with that of Charles Darwin on the celebration of this anniversary, and for the still greater and more exceptional honor, of perpetuating my features with those of my illustrious forerunner, upon the medal you have now awarded me.

With your permission I propose to make a few remarks both as to the actual relations between Darwin and myself prior to July, 1858, and also to some peculiarities of our respective life-histories which brought about those relations, and which will, I hope, be both novel and of some general interest.

Since the death of Darwin in 1882, 1 have found myself in the somewhat unusual position of receiving credit and praise from popular writers under a complete misapprehension of what my share in Darwin's work really amounted to. It has been stated (not unfrequently) in the daily and weekly press, that Darwin and myself discovered "natural selection" simultaneously, while a more daring few have declared that I was the first to discover it, and that I gave way to Darwin!

In order to avoid further errors of this kind (which this celebration may possibly encourage), I think it will be well to give the actual facts as simply and clearly as possible.

The one fact that connects me with Darwin, and which, I am happy to say, has never been doubted, is that the idea of what is now termed "natural selection" or "survival of the fittest," together with its far reaching consequences, occurred to us independently, and was first jointly announced before this society fifty years ago.

But, what is often forgotten by the press and the public, is, that the idea occurred to Darwin in October, 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February, 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence from the vast mass of literature of biology, of horticulture and of agriculture: as well as himself carrying out ingenious experiments and original observations, the extent of which is indicated by the range of subjects discussed in his "Origin of Species," and especially in that wonderful store-house of knowledge—his "Animals and Plants under Domestica-

  1. Reply on receiving the Darwin-Wallace medal of the Linnean Society of London on July 1, 1908.