Alfred Wallace Centenary Conference
Saturday 5 October 2013, 9.30am-5.30pm
£19 per person including lunch and tea/coffee.
Tickets available from and payment to Ken Adams, 63 Wroths Path, Loughton, Essex IG10 1SH. Cheques payable to Essex Field Club.
PLEASE BOOK EARLY SO WE CAN PLAN NUMBERS FOR THE LUNCH and specify if gluten free or vegetarian required. Deadline 28 September.
Posters on Natural History Recording/Ecology also welcome.
10.00 am George Beccaloni – from the Natural History Museum will look at Wallace’s life history and the nature of the remarkable collections he made that shaped his ideas on the nature of evolutionary change.
11.00 am Roy Davies – author of ‘The Darwin Conspiracy’ will more controversially, review the evidence that perhaps Darwin actually plagiarized some of Wallace’s ideas, prior to his publication of his ‘Origin of Species’, after seeing the manuscript that Wallace submitted to the Royal Society, and that some of his influential upper class friends may have gone along with it.
12.00 30min Discussion – Wallace versus Darwin
This section will review the history of the study of biodiversity from the time of Wallace, when there were no comprehensive definitive or illustrated identification guides, or generally available optical accessories, and very few identification texts, and when numerous species had yet to be described. A situation that even for familiar groups of organisms in the UK, persisted until many of us alive today came on the scene and created a ‘mass-market’ for the early Frederick-Warne and Collins Field Guides. We will recount the transition from those early days when ‘a record’ was an actual specimen, suitably preserved in some way, and ‘reference collections’ were the I.D. guides of the day, and only a very few people had the resources and connections to participate; through to the 21C when for many groups of organisms it is now no longer necessary to collect and preserve a specimen to be sure of an identification and make an accurate record. [Not forgetting the pitfalls that this modern approach can lead us into].
12.30 Bill George – will look at the history of the study of geology from the time of Charles Lyell, a contemporary of Darwin & Wallace, to the present, with emphasis on geological recording in Essex from the days when mammoth bones were thought to be Roman elephants to the sophisticated stratigraphical studies of today, and the subsequent unravelling of the sequence of ice ages and interglacials that shaped our Essex landscape.
13.00 Buffet Lunch. Ann Adams. (for those who have booked in advance)
14.00 Guest Speaker– will review the changes that have occurred since the time when a bird had to be shot and its skin, and sometimes, its skeleton preserved, to ‘prove’ a record; when bird’s skins and eggs were collected as trophies, [a habit not yet fully suppressed], and when birds were shot and eggs collected as a commercial undertaking for well-to-do clients. And very often their ‘provenance’ fabricated! With the advent of field guides, cheap binoculars, bird ringing and tracking schemes, telescopes, cameras and tick lists, the WWII years ushered in the rise of ‘birdwatching’, and numerous county and several national bird watching/studying organisations come into being. More recently, electronic cameras for verification, mobile phone assisted ‘twitching’ and meticulous recording of distribution and breeding, and ringing - now augmented by satellite tracking, have given an incredibly detailed understanding of the status and dynamics of bird populations. In the last fifty years numerous magazines, books and bird distribution Atlases have engaged an even wider audience.
14.30 Ted Benton– will recount the history of the recording of Dragonflies and Damselflies in the U.K. from the early days when specimens were collected, set and pinned (Wallace himself collected over 100 species) or pickled in alcohol, to the advent of coloured drawings of the taxa, begun as early as 1845 and privately circulated to the privileged few, to the increasingly available sophisticated and comprehensive paintings and photographic guides of today, that enable us to reliably identify, study and record Dragonflies in their natural habitat without even having to catch them. With more people now able to look for them and with subtle changes in the climate, more and more southern species are being recorded and found breeding in Essex. [Lisa Treadwell, Dragonfly artist will be exhibiting some of her exquisite paintings and will have prints for sale]. 15.00 Tea Break
15.30 Geoffrey Kibby – will look at the problems that confronted the early mycologists with identifying fungi, - organisms that rot away very quickly – and the ever evolving techniques developed for preserving specimens, identifying and recording them, and the problems that we have in authenticating early and even recent records as new taxa are discovered at an ever increasing rate.
16.00 Ken Adams – will look at the history of plant description and recording from the very limited and vague descriptions and woodcut illustrations in the early herbals to the establishment of pressed plant herbarium museum reference collections, commercial collecting of specimens for rich clients private herbaria, and development of the botanical and bryological specimen exchange clubs, which began to deplete some species in the wild almost as badly as removal of the more showy plants for the garden. His account will be illustrated with samples of the early identification floras and county check lists, and the gradual development of sophisticated field guides and the devising of dichotomous keys and detailed descriptions that replaced the frustrating early attempts at synoptic keys, and the paintings and photographs that have largely dispensed with the need to keep pressed voucher specimens for verification of all but the most critical plants. Verification and digital recording of the vast numbers of historical herbarium specimens in museums throughout the country is being revitalized by the website ‘Herbaria at Home’ where local botanists are encouraged to verify specimens from their digitized images and to interpret the handwriting and produce a digital record of the labels.
16.30 Book Signing & exhibits
17.00 Discussion and questions.
17.30 End of Conference.
Ted Benton- will have his latest book available for purchase and signing: Alfred Russel Wallace: Explorer, Evolutionist, Public Intellectual - A thinker for our own times? Soft cover 224 pages 240 x 165 mm 35 black and white illustrations, 6 colour plates. Siri Scientific Press. IS BN: 978-0-9574530-2-9 (2013).
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Life: Part 1
- Childhood, Surveying, Tropical Journeys and the Species Question
- Chapter 3: Life: Part 2
- Science, Spiritualism, Land and Socialism
- Chapter 4: Field Naturalist to Scientific Revolutionary
- Natural Selection and the Geography of Life
- Chapter 5: Sexual Selection Female Choice and the Evolution of Beauty
- Chapter 6: Above or Part of Nature? Wallace Versus Darwin on Human Evolution
- Chapter 7: Politics 1
- Owenism, Moral ‘Savages’ and Epping Forest
- Chapter 8: Politics 2
- Land Nationalisation and Socialism
- Chapter 9: Instead of a Conclusion
- Some Reflections on Wallace’s Legacy