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'wallace Was An Outsider, So It's No Wonder We Don't Remember Him As A Great Scientist. He Didn't Limit His Research To Proper Scientific Subjects. Discuss.

1210 words - 5 pages

Science can be defined as 'The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.' And a scientist as someone who has an expert knowledge of one or more sciences. Today Wallace would be considered a great scientist according to these definitions. He came up with the same theories on evolution as Darwin. So why will Darwin be remembered as the person whose theories changed our view on evolution while Wallace faded into obscurity? To understand this we need to take a look the scientific establishment of the time and which subjects were deemed to be acceptable for scientific research. We will see why Wallace was regarded as an outsider not only by his own contemporaries but by 20th century scientific historians and why his studies considered improper.Although Wallace and Darwin were contemporaries of each other and shared many of the same evolutionist theories, Wallace had a different social background, a factor which helped steer him away from the establishment and cause him to be regarded as an outsider. Unlike Darwin, son of a wealthy doctor and Cambridge graduate Wallace was the son of a failed businessman and grammar school boy. Working in Wales as a surveyor Wallace witnessed the crushing effect of rural poverty .When he was 20 he wrote the essay the South Wales farmer and noted 'the landlord likes to buy more land with his spare capital rather than improve these miserable farms' (OU resource book3, p60). In the same essay he also comments on the superstition and religious practices of the tenant farmers. He wrote 'as might be expected from their ignorance they are exceedingly superstitious, which is rather increased than diminished in those who are able to read by their confining their studies to the bible' (OU resource book3,p66). Wallace views on socialism and his skepticism of religion are starting to become evident 2 facts that were to later influence his own personal scientific studies.So, what were the boundaries of 'proper scientific subjects' and who sought to define them? In the 1830's an association for the development of science was formed. It was called the British Association for the Advancement of Science, set up by a group of respectable gentlemen and Oxbridge Dons with views consistent with that of the Church of England. It was this group of elite gentlemen which defined scientific boundaries. Anything that questioned the fact that God created the universe and life was outside these boundaries as was anything that pertained to the soul and spiritualism. Anyone who thought otherwise was deemed to be a crackpot or a crank and an outsider of the scientific elite.For this reason, Wallace was thought of as a crank because to Wallace science had no boundaries. Like Darwin Wallace was an evolutionist. Unlike Darwin, Wallace had no professional constraints and had nothing to lose professionally or socially. Darwin came up with his own theory of evolution whilst on a voyage...

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