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    Alfred Russel Wallace And The Inselaffen
    By Robert H Olley | May 14th 2013 01:26 PM | 17 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    I was watching the recent two-part BBC series Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero, about Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 – 1913), in which Bailey and his hidden camera team travelled through Indonesia sampling the joys of the rainforest while following the great naturalist’s journey.  The first episode was spent on Borneo, the second on Sulawesi and the Spice Islands.  Wallace spent considerable time in Borneo, and wrote On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species (published 1855) — not quite natural selection, but definitely evolution with transitional forms.  This became known as “The Sarawak Law”.



    In 1856, Wallace crossed the Lombok Strait (above), and Bill Bailey followed.  Now this is only 20 km across at its narrowest, considerably less than the 21 miles across the English Channel.  This is where Wallace was struck by the massive difference in the flora and fauna of the two islands.  This at first seemed to completely overturn the “Sarawak Law”.  Further travels, however, revealed a boundary with Asian-type animals to the west, and the beginning of Australian-type animals to the east.  This boundary is now known as Wallace’s Line.



    Wallace went on to great distinction, receiving the Order of Merit from King Edward VII in 1907.  However, as his Wikipedia biography states:

    his fame faded quickly after his death.  For a long time, he was treated as a relatively obscure figure in the history of science.  A number of reasons have been suggested for this lack of attention, including his modesty, his willingness to champion unpopular causes without regard for his own reputation, and the discomfort of much of the scientific community with some of his unconventional ideas.


    Bill Bailey, however, attributes Wallace’s eclipse to the British class system.  Darwin was a gentleman in the original, class-based sense of the word (as well as its more modern meaning), while Wallace came from a much more humble background.  This is rather illogical, since it was the very class-conscious Victorians who honoured him, while it was later that people let him slip from memory.  Well, BBC people do tend to be armchair class warriors, so they would say that, wouldn’t they?

    My own speculation is that Wallace tended to be crowded out by the ‘big story’ effect.  Telling the history often tends to concentrate on one spectacular individual.  So when it comes to the calculus, Newton is favoured over Leibniz (especially in Britain), and Edison gets the lion’s share of the glory for the electrification of America, even though it was Tesla’s alternating current scheme which won out.




    Monkeys, apart from some species in South America, are found in Africa and Asia, but not in Australia.  Even so, some macaques are found east of Wallace’s line.  Did they swim there?

    Here are some macaques:

    This is the Barbary macaque, Macaca sylvanus, also found on Gilbraltar, making it the only European monkey.

    This is the Japanese macaque or Snow Monkey, Macaca fuscata,

    This is the “typical” Rhesus macaque, Macaca mulatta, here in Agra.  Like most macaques, it has brown fur,

    This is the stump-tailed macaque, Macaca nemastrina, found in Borneo.


    Here is a link to a video of David Bailey on Sulawesi encountering some Celebes Crested Macaques,
    Macaca nigra (‘Celebes’ is a Portuguese version of ‘Sulawesi’, used by Europeans before Indonesia gained independence.)  From genetic analysis, these are closest species to the stump-tailed macaques of Borneo.  Although the Makassar Strait between Borneo and Sulawesi is much more violent than the English Channel, effectively separating the two types of fauna, the ancestors of these monkeys must have managed to get across some millions of years ago, and subsequently to have evolved into these very different fellows.




    Inselaffen or ‘Island monkeys/apes’ is a pejorative German term for the British, first used (I think) in the early 19th century, when the Germans had their heads all filled with philosophy and romantic poetry.  It is rather like the term ‘Philistines’ used by artists in Britain for those they regard as less cultured, though this is ironic, since the original Philistines were probably far more ‘arty’ than their Hebrew neighbours.

    Now here is a self-portrait of Celebes Crested Macaque and I ask: are these the original Inselaffen?





    [1] The Forgotten Naturalist: Alfred Russel Wallace, by David Bressan | Scientific American |January 9, 2013

    [2] Evolution’s red-hot radical, by Andrew Berry | NATURE | VOL 496 | pp 162–163 | 11 APRIL 2013

    Comments

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    'For a long time, he was treated as a relatively obscure figure in the history of science.  A number of reasons have been suggested for this lack of attention, including his modesty, his willingness to champion unpopular causes without regard for his own reputation, and the discomfort of much of the scientific community with some of his unconventional ideas.'
    Great article Robert and you are giving Alfred Russell Wallace some of the scientific attention and recognition that he obviously deserves. 

    'My own speculation is that Wallace tended to be crowded out by the ‘big story’ effect.  Telling the history often tends to concentrate on one spectacular individual.  So when it comes to the calculus, Newton is favoured over Leibniz (especially in Britain), and Edison gets the lion’s share of the glory for the electrification of America, even though it was Tesla’s alternating current scheme which won out.'
    I don't really understand what the 'big story effect' is, why wouldn't Tesla qualify, he's one of my favorite dead scientists and he was larger than life wasn't he?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
    I don't really understand what the 'big story effect' is ...
    It is when a historical fact or event is 'fogged out' by a subsequent bigger story.
    Wallace being obscured by Darwin springs readily to mind - I can't think why. ;-)

    Never heard of Wilhelm Josef Sinsteden ?  He invented the lead-acid battery.  Five years later an improvement by Gaston Raimond
    Planté got all the attention.  That is why so many books and articles - yes, even scientific papers - state that Planté invented it.

    ... are these the original Inselaffen?
    Nein, aber es ist ein inselgrinsen.

    rholley
    It is morning here, and if I sit around all day at Science 2.0 I will not get anything done, not even gardening.  However, one point to make before evening:
    a historical fact or event is 'fogged out' by a subsequent bigger story
    This reminds me of the following words of a very moving Welsh song Ceidwad y goleudy (The lighthouse keeper):

    Can a oedd yn llithro rhwng muriau llaith anghofio (A song that was slipping between the wet walls of forgetting).

    Here it is sung by Bryn Fon (another Big Bryn!): Ceidwad y Goleudy - Bryn Fon (geiriau / lyrics).
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks for explaining the 'Big Story' effect Patrick.
     It was a funny coincidence but I was watching QI lastYoung Mother Theresa night and one of Stephen Fry's questions asked them to name some celebrities who's deaths went relatively unnoticed because of the 'Big Story' effect. 

    For example Mother Theresa died on the same day as Princess Di so her death did not get the public attention and coverage that it would have done otherwise. 

    He also said that 2 famous authors died on the same day as John F Kennedy but I've already forgotten who they were :)




    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
    2 famous authors died on the same day as John F Kennedy
    Aldous Huxley author of Brave New World.
    C S Lewis author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
    William R Titterton friend and first biographer of G. K. Chesterton.

    That's both of them.  And another not quite so famous.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks, now how did you know that Patrick? Did you watch QI too or are you just amazingly knowledgeable or a brillliant Googler?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
    Howdunnit ?

    You were kind enough to compliment me recently on my research skills.  Honestly, I don't usually plan how to search: I just do it.  However, in this case I used what I call the 'common factor' search method.  You had already stated, but not in so many words, that the common factor was deaths on the same day.  So I searched for "22 November 1963 deaths".  Top result took me to a history site: HistoryOrb.com, and you know how I do so love history.  :-)
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Ha ha, OK, so a brilliant Googler!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
    Among my earliest recollections - from the 1950s -  is going to a library and knowing where to find the children's books.  Over the years my late father taught me how to find information.  At one time I considered taking a course in library science but was put off by the thought of spending the first year being told what I already knew.

    Google search is but a very wow-ful extension of the index card system.  If I am a skilled researcher and a "brilliant Googler", then all I can say is: "Thanks, dad!"
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    That's a lovely story Patrick. My 87 year old father is also amazingly good at finding and doing things on the Internet, he would be lost without it, yet many of his peers sadly haven't make that transition. He also makes very good use of his local library via his Kindle, which seems to be becoming more and more popular with older people these days, for obvious reasons ;)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    logicman
    Kindle, schmindle.  If parchment read by the light of a tallow candle was good enough for Roger Bacon ...
    Hank
    Roger Bacon only lived to be 80. In the 13th century. I am not taking a page out of that guy's book.

    I have a Kindle but it makes me sleepy.
    logicman
    I am not taking a page out of that guy's book.
    I should hope not.  Vandalism is a serious crime.

    I have a Kindle but it makes me sleepy.
    You see?  I told you about the electromagnetic emissions.  I can sell you a very comfortable aluminised hood for only $312.   ;-)

    Gerhard Adam
    Great article Robert ... also great pics
    Mundus vult decipi
    rholley
    I’ve just started reading a recent travel book An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski, who follows in Wallace’s footsteps.   This refers to Malcolm Gladwell in an article in The New Yorker:
    This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common.  One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern.
    The book also draws attention to what G.K.Chesterton said about Wallace in an article [1]. 
    IF I were asked who ought to be regarded in future ages as the greatest man of our time, I should hesitate between Walt Whitman and an old inn-keeper I once knew, quite unknown to the public.  But if the question were what great man would be regarded as the most important and significant figure of the nineteenth century, I should hesitate between Walt Whitman and Alfred Russel Wallace.  Remarkable as Russel Wallace is in the matter of individual intellect, in the matter of representative opinion he is more remarkable still.  For he has been the leader of a revolution and the leader of a counter revolution.
    More (D.V.) to come!




    [1] G.K.Chesterton, “Alfred Russel Wallace”, English Illustrated Magazine (London) January 1904 (10): pp 420-422.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    logicman
    This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common.

    I just finished editing my Sinsteden article to include reference to the windmill illusion which was independently reported by three observers.  Sinsteden wrote of this as a pseudoscopic effect.  The pseudoscope had been invented shortly before: by Wheatstone and by Riddell independently.
    logicman
    I'm sorry, but your picture was crying out for a humorous caption.