12 Controversial Essay Topics on Alfred Russel Wallace vs Charles Darwin

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Posted on December 2, 2015

If you are tasked with writing a controversial essay on Alfred Russel Wallace versus Charles Darwin, it is important that you include many facts related to the two key figures in support of your claim. Chances are, this type of assignment is one which requires you to address the controversy that exists between the contributions and theories proposed by both men.

In that case, look over the facts below to see if any of them are useful in your next writing assignment:

  1. Wallace was born in 1823 and was a key figure in the idea of natural selection and its relation to evolution. This biologist is hardly ever mentioned by name today, even though he was quite famous with a glistening reputation during his lifetime. He did not shy away from controversy and was proud of the fact that he believed the spirits of those deceased were among us. He also was the first biologist to note any concerns about the negative impact that humans were having on the environment.
  2. Darwin explained the impact of his findings on philosophical points of view, as well as scientific and religious points of view. Those among the educated society of the time accepted his theory of natural selection, and in spite of the excessive support and evidence he has, there are still those today who doubt these claims.
  3. Wallace came from a middle class family which was not well off. He attended grammar school because it was free of charge and had no formal training in biology nor did he attend a university. He worked initially with his older brother as a land surveyor. It was his time spent out of doors which inspired him to read the works of Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt and to collet insects.
  4. Wallace traveled to Brazil with Henry Bates in 1848 in an effort to emulate his heroes. He funded his trip by surveying the course of the Rio Negro for over four years, collecting Amazon based specimens for sale to British institutions and collectors, and by making observations about the people and languages he found in the Amazon. He spent a total of 6 years here prior to returning home with his specimens and writings. Unfortunately, while sailing home his ship caught fire on the ocean and he had to abandon ship. He was on an open boat for 10 days before being picked up. He lost the majority of his drawings, writings, and his specimens but he did take out insurance for the specimens and as such received a settlement for the loss.
  5. Darwin is famous for his publications on natural selection, which state that all species found on earth have evolved from common ancestors, a process whereby the most favorable traits in a species become the most common traits for successive generations while those less favorable traits begin to diminish.
  6. Darwin presented evidence from his five years on the HMS Beagle during which time he collected specimens and notes from the Falkland Islands, Brazil, Chile, the Galapagos Islands, and Australia.
  7. Wallace returned from Brazil and authored two books and was able to write and publish six papers for an academic journal. It was during this time that he was able to spend a great deal of time getting to know other naturalists in Britain.
  8. Wallace went to the East Indies when he turned 31 and enjoyed a successful expedition, even more so than Brazil. He was able to send over 100,000 new species back to Britain from New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. He observed the short stretch of water found between Bali and Lombok, which changed the animal life there. This space today is referred to as the Wallace Line and it marks the place where the Australian wildlife meets the Asian wildlife. He returned at the age of 39.
  9. Wallace began to write about the theory of natural selection, before it was called that officially, after his trip to Brazil. He explained that there were geographical barriers which marked the boundaries of individual species. While in the East Indies he had tropical fever which resulted in hallucinations. He wrote that the theory of natural selection had come to him when he awoke. He stated that animals breed faster than humans and the annual destruction which results indicates that animals do not increase their breeding year to year, or that breed would have taken over the world at present. From this he asked why some species died and others survived, deciding that it was based entirely on which was best fitted to survive.
  10. Darwin suffered from many illnesses throughout the end of his life but continued with research and experiments. His work on natural selection took a few decades to be widely accepted by scientists across the fields. Darwin first authored his book on natural selection and the theory of evolution in 1859 after which he wrote multiple other books including “The Descent of Man”, and another book after that which was called “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”, as well as “The Power of Movement in Plants”, among many others. Today, Darwin’s books remain quote popular, as well as his publications on his travels and his correspondence. These all continue to remain widely accepted as substantiated scientific theories. In fact, the book on natural selection is a best seller even today and remains one of the most scientifically influential books even written.
  11. Wallace passed away at the age of 90 in 1913. Darwin was born in 1809 and passed away in 1882.
  12. Wallace was the recipient of the Royal Medal, the Darwin Medal, the Founder’s Medal, the Order of Merift, and the Linnean Medal, among many others. He was renowned as one of the greatest biologists in the world at the time that he died and had received many of these awards near the end of his lifetime.

These facts can be perfectly combined with the special topics and a sample essay that are related to Darwin and Wallace. But if you have problems writing, then upgrade your skills by reading this guide on a controversial essay or contact our custom essay writing service online.


  1. Darwin, Charles. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. No. 487. Dana Robinson, 2015.
  2. Darwin, Charles. The descent of man. Digireads. com Publishing, 2004.
  3. Darwin, Charles. The origin of species by means of natural selection: or, the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life. Ed. William F. Bynum. AL Burt, 2009.
  4. Spruce, Richard, and Alfred Russel Wallace. Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes. Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  5. Wallace, Alfred Russel. Darwinism: an exposition of the theory of natural selection with some of its applications. Cosimo, Inc., 2007.
  6. Wallace, Alfred Russel. The Malay Archipelago: the land of the orang-utan and the bird of paradise; a narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature. Courier Corporation, 1869.
  7. Wallace, Alfred Russel, and Sir James Marchant. Alfred Russel Wallace. Cassell, Limited, 1916.
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