Alfred Russel Wallace and the Bird of Paradise
On the Bird of Paradise:
"I thought of the long ages of the past, during which the successive generations of this little creature have run their course – year by year being born and living and dying amid these dark and gloomy woods with no intelligent eye to gaze upon their loveliness, to all appearances such a wanton waste of beauty… It seems sad, that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions… This consideration should surely tell us that all living things were not made for Man. Many of them have no relation to him, their happiness and enjoyments, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their rigorous life and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation, alone." -- Alfred Russel Wallace
He did extensive fieldwork first in the Amazon River basin, and then in the Malay Archipelago, where he identified the Wallace line dividing the fauna of Australia from that of Asia. He is best known for independently proposing a theory of natural selection which prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own more developed and researched theory sooner than intended. Wallace was also one of the leading evolutionary thinkers of the 19th century who made a number of other contributions to the development of evolutionary theory, including the concept of warning colouration in animals, and the Wallace effect. He was also considered the 19th century’s leading expert on the geographical distribution of animal species and is sometimes called the "father of biogeography".
Wallace was strongly attracted to radical ideas. His advocacy of spiritualism and his belief in a non-material origin for the higher mental faculties of humans strained his relationship with the scientific establishment, especially with other early proponents of evolution. He was critical of what he considered to be an unjust social and economic system in 19th century Britain, and was one of the first prominent scientists to raise concerns over the environmental impact of human activity.