Alfred Wallace has the most famous natural line across the world named after him, 'Wallace's Line' the divide between mammals of the rest of the world and marsupials of Australasia caused by an ocean trench running through the Indonesian islands. He is also recognised as the co-discoverer with Darwin of the theory of natural selection, having first published the concept that "the fittest shall survive".
While exploring the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos for eight years during Alfred Wallace's epic journey, he caught 125,660 creatures including 212 new species of birds, 200 new species of ants and 900 new species of beetles. It was an extraordinary feat of logistics, for one man, on a tight budget and without organisational support, living rough in rainforests, to collect, identify, mount, preserve and transport 8,000 bird skins and 100,000 insects.
Paul explores what led Wallace to develop his contributions to the theory of natural selection, first the Sarawak Law and then the famous Ternate Paper, written in 1858, in which he outlined the concept "the fittest shall survive". Wallace sent the Ternate Paper to Charles Darwin, who up to that point had not published one word on evolution. The next year Darwin published the Origin of Species. He re-asks the questions, did Darwin and Wallace arrive at their similar ideas independently and did Wallace get sidelined in the quest for priority by the more prominent and well-placed Darwin?
Paul Sochaczewski first went to Southeast Asia in 1969 with the United States Peace Corps, where he was assigned to assist rural teachers in the state of Sarawak, in Borneo. He subsequently lived in Southeast Asia for some 20 years, working in advertising and journalism, and those experiences have informed his writing on a wide variety of Asian-themed topics and quests.
Paul has worked in some 85 countries and written 16 books and some 600 articles for publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, South China Morning Post, Bangkok Post, BBC Wildlife, Travel and Leisure and Reader's Digest. His latest book, Searching for Ganesha, has been published to generous reviews. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and he spoke to RGS-HK on five occasions.
The opinions expressed in this talk are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of the Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong.