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An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles: The hero's journey of Alfred Russel Wallace in Southeast Asia

Public Seminar

Wednesday 15th October 2014, 6.30pm to 8pm, Room 32L.LG.03, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, LSE

Speakers: Paul Spencer Sochaczewski and David Hallmark

Chair: Roger Montgomery

Alfred Russel Wallace was a self-taught British naturalist and self-described 'beetle collector' who in the mid-19th century travelled for four years in the Amazon and eight years in South-East Asia covering some 22,500 kilometres through what is now Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Through his travels he developed his understanding of the dynamics of island biology observing that the 'natural productions' he found in western Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia were different to those in eastern Indonesia due to changing sea levels and a combination of shallow seas and deep oceanic trenches. By studying these differences he developed a west-east boundary which came to be known as the 'Wallace Line', the dividing point between (western) Southeast Asian fauna (elephants, tigers, monkeys and apes, hornbills) and fauna of the (eastern) Austro-Malayan realm (kangaroos, birds of paradise, marsupials).

Wallace first published the ‘Sarawak Law’ in 1855. He followed this with his famous ‘Ternate’ paper in 1858 where he outlined the concept 'the fittest shall survive' and which he forwarded to Charles Darwin who at that time had not yet published one word on evolution. It is at this point that the conspiracy theorists, and in this case the lawyers, get involved. This seminar will explore the factors that led Wallace to develop his contributions to the theory of natural selection, explore whether Darwin and Wallace arrived at their similar ideas independently, and consider whether Wallace has been side-lined in favour of the more prominent and well-placed Darwin.

Mr Paul Spencer Sochaczewski has been head of international campaigns for WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature and senior advisor to IUCN-World Conservation Union. For some 40 years Paul has lived and explored in places of importance to Wallace in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. He has written extensively about Wallace, including articles in the Royal Geographical Society’s journal Geographical (with David Hallmark), New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Bangkok Post, CNN Traveller, DestinAsian and has lectured on Wallace’s hero’s journey worldwide. Paul's latest book, An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles|, documents Wallace’s explorations through the perceptions of Paul’s experience living and working in Southeast Asia.

Mr David Hallmark is an international lawyer and advisor to the International Commission of Jurists on human rights abuses in SE Asia. He is a Visiting Fellow at Trinity College, Oxford University on International Human Rights Law. David is the only researcher to examine the Wallace-Darwin question from a legal point of view. He has travelled throughout Indonesia from Borneo to Baliem Valley in West Papua and is Founder, with others, of The Wallacea Foundation of Indonesia to promote conservation in Wallacea, the biogeographical region in Indonesia named after Alfred Russel Wallace.

Dr Roger Montgomery| is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the LSE Asia Research Centre.

Additional Information

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. Please direct any queries to arc@lse.ac.uk| or call 020 7955 7615.

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Paul Sochaczewski near the summit of Gunung Gamalama, Ternate
Paul Sochaczewski near the summit of Gunung Gamalama, Ternate
David Hallmark in the Hindu Kush
David Hallmark in the Hindu Kush
An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles