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ARI Asia Trends

ARI ASIA TRENDS 2011 - Solving the Darwin-Wallace Mystery of 1858 by Dr John van Wyhe & Assoc Prof Gregory Clancey Print
Date: 21 Apr 2011
Venue: National Museum of Singapore
The Salon Level 1
93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897
Organisers: N/A

This lecture series is brought to you by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, in collaboration with the National Museum of Singapore.

Solving the Darwin-Wallace Mystery of 1858

Dr John van Wyhe
Departments of Biological Sciences and History, National University of Singapore

Assoc Prof Gregory Clancey
Asia Research Institute and Tembusu College, National University of Singapore

Charles Darwin’s surprise receipt of a letter and essay by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858 with the same theory for the origin of species is one of the most famous episodes in the history of science. Yet this event remains shrouded in confusion, controversy and conspiracy. Because the original documents by Wallace do not survive, there is no definitive proof of when they were sent or received. Another Wallace letter, supposedly sent to a friend at the same time, survives. Its postmarks reveal the date of its receipt in England, a date different from when Darwin recorded the receipt of Wallace’s essay. This apparent discrepancy has been the source of great confusion. Some writers have claimed that Darwin lied about when he received Wallace’s essay in order to steal from it. For forty years this mystery has remained unexplained. This talk, based on new research, will offer a solution and hopefully put the conspiracy theories to rest.


John van Wyhe is a Historian of Science. He had a research Fellowship at USP in 2002, he worked on the Wallace Correspondence Project at the Open University (UK) and is the founder and Director of the award-winning Darwin Online project at the University of Cambridge (now NUS). Since the end of 2009 he holds a joint appointment as Senior Lecturer between the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of History at NUS. He is also an Associate of the Science, Technology & Society (STS) Cluster, Asia Research Institute (ARI), Natural History Museum (London), and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.

Gregory Clancey
is Leader of the Science, Technology and Society Research Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, Associate Professor of History, and Master of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868-1930 (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 2006) and (with Alan Chan & Hui-Chieh Loy) Historical Perspectives on East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine (Singapore: Singapore U. Press & World Scientific 2002).


ASIA TRENDS is an ARI’s flagship public outreach event. ASIA TRENDS lectures reinforce ARI’s objectives as a world-leading humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary centre for research and education on Asia, through research, conferences, lectures, seminars and graduate study. It connects with the local Singapore community by  informing and interacting with various public circles (civil society organisations, media,  businesses, universities and colleges, government and citizenry at large) on major social research issues about Asia. Past ASIA TRENDS themes included `Babel or Behemoth: Language Trends in Asia’ (2003), (Un)tying the Knot: Ideal and Reality in Asian Marriages’ (2004), `Asian Migrations: Sojourning, Displacement, Homecoming and Other Travels’ (2005), `Violence in Contemporary Asian Films’ (2006), `Women and Religion in Asia’ (2007), and `Chineseness Unbound: Boundaries, Burdens and Belongings of Chineseness Outside China’ (2008).

Asia Trends 2011 is the ninth in the annual series. Each research cluster within ARI will host an evening lecture on a trend within its research field. An invited overseas speaker will examine the emerging trends in Asia and a Singapore-base researcher will provide supplementary comments on local development.

The series of lectures will be held on Thursdays in April and May, 7:00pm to 8:30 pm at The Salon, Level 1 of the National Museum of Singapore.

Click here for the
series listing.


Admission is free, however, registration is required. Kindly register early as seats are available on a first come, first served basis. We would greatly appreciate if you write to Miss Sharon Ong via email at your name, email, organisation/affiliation and contact number.

Contact Person: Ms ONG Sharon