The time travelers: Alfred Russel Wallace and Peter Kropotkin

Network Node: 
Wed., Oct. 2, 2013, 3:30pm - , 7:00pm

The time travelers: Alfred Russel Wallace and Peter Kropotkin
Edmonton, Alberta. Oct. 2, 2013


The Edmonton node is pleased to support this lecture as part of "More than Natural Selection: A Lecture Series on Alfred Russel Wallace" University of Alberta, October 2013


Though Wallace and Kropotkin lived into the twentieth century, their ideas did not dominate it.  In both cases, their positions were in important respects losing ones in major nineteenth century intellectual battles about nature, society, and evolution.  Instead, those of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx respectively – neither of who lived to see the twentieth century - came to define the terms of scientific and political debate across the twentieth century.  Many confident certainties of the Darwinian and Marxist positions are less persuasive in the twenty-first while several aspects of Wallace and Kropotkin once dismissed as unserious – even kooky – are now coming in for respectful re-examination.  The lecture will consider this shift in historical fortunes, with attention on the one hand to the contemporary situation and on the other to the late Victorian milieu of initial judgment-making.  These conjoined cases will be used to demonstrate the complex relationships that exist among personal biography, social context, and scientific knowledge. 


Speaker:  Kathleen Lowrey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta.  She has carried out fieldwork with Guaraní speaking indigenous peoples in the Gran Chaco region of South America since 1997 and is currently at work on a book about that research.  She has a long-standing interest in the political and scientific aspects of evolutionary theory.

Series Description: Alfred Russel Wallace was a great natural historian and a leading figure in the debates that swirled around the questions of evolution and the origins of humans in the nineteenth century. He and Charles Darwin are often paired as co-discoverers of evolution by natural selection. But Wallace’s interests were very wide ranging. One hundred years after his death, we will remember in this lecture series Wallace the natural historian and evolutionist, but we will also explore lesser known aspects of Wallace’s life, including Wallace’s involvement with spiritualism, his political sympathies, and even Wallace the protagonist in controversies around the existence of extra-terrestrial life.   These multiple idiosyncrasies are usually described as paradoxical departures from, even diminishments of, Wallace’s scientific competence.  We find in them a different sort of paradox.  They simultaneously attest to Wallace’s profound intellectual originality and independence while also being inextricable from the culturally and historically specific milieu of Victorian science.   Each of the talks in the series will explore a different aspect of this paradox and the interesting problems it poses for the study of science.


See here for information on other events in this series: