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It was “a case of great minds thinking alike,” Dorion writes. But while Darwin had slowly, cautiously
articulated his hypotheses to himself over decades in his country home, they
came as flashes of insight to Wallace in the course of scouring the jungles of
the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago for exotic specimens to sell to European
collectors. It was Wallace’s 1858 letter to Darwin that spurred the latter to
go public—and Wallace’s salutary lack of ego that turned what might have been a
bitter battle over claims of precedence into a long and cordial relationship. Though
the author skimps on Wallace’s later career and misleadingly tags the heart of
his proposed theory as “natural selection” (that was Darwin’s term, not Wallace’s),
she offers clear pictures of his character and his passion for natural science
while making generous use of direct quotations. Tennant gives the slightly
oversized volume the feel of a collector’s album with ranks of accurately drawn
tropical beetles, birds, and other specimens. These he intersperses with
portraits of eminent colleagues, images of collecting gear, and verdant scenes
of the white explorer at work either alone or with one or more Indigenous assistants
(the latter only sometimes identified, or even mentioned, in the narrative).

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