Tuesday, 24 November 2015

publish or perish and the girl with kaleidoscope eyes

After quite a few years of being rather coy about his research and conclusions, Charles Darwin was finally persuaded to publish his seminal work on 24 November 1859—On the Origin of Species—when fellow naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, whom had independently arrived at the theory of evolution through the study of geographical dispersion of creatures great and small, released his paper on the “introduction” of species.
Wallace’s brilliance and impetus lies tarnished due to Darwin receiving the credit for the theory—or rather by modern estimates as for contemporaries, he was quite magnanimous and didn’t stint sharing and deference, and even ensured the penniless Wallace was awarded a proper pension in his later years—and for rather incongruous beliefs that he held, estranging the scientific community to a large degree. Though the sort of morbid curiosity with mediums and psychics was wide-spread at the time and surely a lot of people were at least closeted conjurers, Wallace approached charlatans as assiduously as he conducted his biological observations, quite taken by trickery and sleight of hand and also was a victim of trolling, baiting by the Flat-Earth association and vocal anti-vaxxer. Quite apropos—also on this date, as celebrated by the Google Doodle, in 1974, the fossilized assemblage that her discoverers called Lucy—after the Beatles’ song, was found in the Afar lowlands of Ethiopia, marking an important and accessible milestone in the way we understand evolution.