Biodiv Sci ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (12): 23304.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2023304

• Special Feature: Celebrating Alfred Russel Wallace’s Bicentenary • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Wallace’s anthropological thought and its contemporary value

Kang Min*()   

  1. School of Asian Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing 100089
  • Received:2023-08-29 Accepted:2023-09-27 Online:2023-12-20 Published:2023-09-28
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Aims: Alfred Russel Wallace, a prominent naturalist and anthropologist of the 19th century, left a lasting legacy in the fields of anthropology and natural history. This paper aims to conduct a comprehensive review, reevaluation, and exploration of his anthropological theories and assess their contemporary relevance.

Method: This research employs a qualitative research approach, with a specific focus on documentary analysis and the examination of life stories. The primary data sources include Wallace’s own papers, monographs, and autobiographical works published throughout his lifetime.

Review results: Anthropological inquiry held a significant place within Wallace’s extensive eight-year expedition across the Malay Archipelago. Our examination reveals three key aspects of his work: (1) Wallace’s groundbreaking theory of human evolution, informed by natural selection and intertwined with teleological considerations, played a pivotal role in resolving the debates between monogenism and polygenism concerning human origins at the time. (2) Wallace’s contributions to field research methodologies not only enhanced the precision and credibility of empirical data but also elevated the importance of field research in scientific investigations. Furthermore, they contributed to the elevated social standing of naturalists engaged in such research. (3) Wallace’s humble and meticulous methodological approach has far-reaching implications. It can inspire a natural philosophy rooted in non-anthropocentrism, a scientific philosophy centered on synergistic and symbiotic systems, and a political philosophy emphasizing morality over economy. These insights hold profound relevance for addressing contemporary ecological and environmental crises.

Key words: Malay Archipelago, anthropology, naturalist, field research, human biogeography