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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Anthropology at the British Association (S120: 1866)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: In August 1866 Wallace served as President of the Dept. of Anthropology, Section D, Biology, at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meetings in Nottingham. As President, he had opportunity to comment on a number of the papers that were presented. The papers delivered and various comments thereon were summarized in a lengthy article that appeared under the title above in the October 1866 issue of Anthropological Review. Excerpted from this are the accounts of Wallace's several remarks. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S120.htm

[[regarding a paper on a human jaw retrieved from a Belgian cave]]

    [[p. 391]] The Chairman remarked that the bone was very interesting irrespective of its antiquity; for, if a race having this peculiar formation were found to exist now, it would be just as much a link between man and the larger apes as if it existed many thousand years ago. The layers of stalagmite indicated great antiquity.

[[regarding a paper on the races of Madagascar]]

    [[p. 392]] The Chairman said it was a very remarkable thing that people with a Malayan element in the language should be found in the interior of Madagascar, the Malays being peculiarly a semi-marine people. It might be that a party landed on that island, and had to fight their way into the interior, becoming ultimately of sufficient strength to conquer the native inhabitants. . . .

    The Chairman thought the straight hair, complexion, and countenance of the Hovas were so distinct from the African type as to prove that they had Malayan blood. The proof was independent and corroborative of that afforded by their language.

[[regarding a paper on a new craniometer design]]

    [[p. 393]] The Chairman: Everyone must have been struck with the difficulty of taking accurate measurements of the skull--a difficulty which has been rendered all the more apparent by the variety of methods which have been proposed for overcoming it. This form of a skull should always be separated from its absolute bulk. By this invention the angular measurements, form, and also dimensions are all given and can readily be reduced to either the English or foreign standard. . . .

    [[p. 394]] The Chairman observed that the fact that others had endeavoured with more or less success to construct instruments for the same purposes, did not detract from the credit due to Mr. Grattan as the inventor of the one exhibited. He was of opinion that for rapidity and accuracy no instrument yet invented equalled that of Mr. Grattan's and that the question of price ought not to be taken as an objection where accuracy was desired. . . .

[[regarding a paper on natural selection applied to anthropology]]

    [[p. 396]] Dr. Grierson referred to the Book of Genesis, but was informed by the Chairman that it was not considered an authority in matters of science. As instances of change in type he mentioned the various breeds of dogs and pigeons, and was of opinion that the existing differences between the various divisions of the human race were not so great as those which we know have taken place in dogs and pigeons. . . .

    [[p. 397]] Mr. Wallace said that the object of the paper was to consider the use which had been made of Mr. Darwin's theory by some of his followers, and not to discuss the question of monogeny or polygeny. Darwin's theory, as far as it goes, may be considered as nearly proved as any theory can be. He never drew any proof from man, but that is no reason why the theory should not be applied to the human race. The chief points in Mr. Darwin's theory are: first, that certain species, if allowed to grow without restriction, would each of them soon fill the earth; second, that a struggle for existence takes place, that the stronger individuals live, and the weaker die out. If the theory be true of plants and the lower animals, it must be true of man also. Professor Vogt, though a follower of Mr. Darwin, does not believe that it necessarily follows that man must have sprung from one and the same origin. According to this theory--in which he did not believe--the various races of man may have sprung from different animals. He (Mr. Wallace) was of opinion that similarity in the mental characters of the different races, was far greater than their dissimilarity; that language, which can be acquired by every race, is a proof of mental unity. It is a mistake to imagine that Mr. Darwin considers climate the cause of the changes which he points out. It is doubtful whether all dogs have sprung from the same stock, but with pigeons there is no doubt that they have. In them, alterations of the skull are produced perfectly independent of changes of climate. He was of opinion that it is quite logical to believe that races have diverged from a common stock, and that they are now gradually again approaching each other. Different races are found in different [[p. 398]] climates, because others could not live there. The type of any particular race was the cause of the selection of the locality in which it is found, and was not caused by the conditions under which the people live. The statement that man is becoming more homogeneous is quite correct. The weakest always goes to the wall, and as the most powerful races increase they will drive the weaker off the face of the earth. Why else do the New Zealanders die? . . .

    Mr. Wallace: Those races which are best adapted for residence in a country will drive out the natives if they are weaker and less able to resist.

[[regarding a paper on Celt artifacts from Dumfriesshire]]

    [[p. 402]] The Chairman (Mr. Wallace) thought it was not surprising to find stones not indigenous to the locality, for savage tribes at the present day thought nothing of travelling several hundred miles to procure articles which they wanted.

[[regarding a paper on the Dyaks of Borneo]]

    [[p. 402]] Mr. Wallace said that although there was nothing new in the paper, there were many points worthy of discussion. As the author had had such a good opportunity of observing the fluctuation in the population, it was a pity he had not made more use of it. His own observation led him to believe that it was nearly stationary. There is such an abundance of food that little exertion is required to obtain as much as is required for sustenance; the population being small and almost stationary, there is little or no pressure on the means of subsistence, and so the chief stimulus to exertion is wanting. He believed that the small number of children born is probably owing to the hard work which the women have to go through, as in other savage tribes. Should the men be induced to relieve the women of their toil, and thus render the women more able to bear children, the best results may be expected. . . .

    [[p. 403]] Mr. Wallace. The question of population resolves itself into two parts: 1. What is the number of children born? 2. What is the number who grow up? He thought it important to make this distinction, as he believed the rate of mortality among children was very high. Over-work has probably a great deal to do with the small number of children born; it has been found that Malay women, who are better treated, have a larger number of children.

    In discussing the question of religion, care should be taken against considering the belief of the whole tribe to be the same as that of a single individual member of it. His own opinion was that tribes do exist who have no idea of anything beyond the grave. Sir S. Baker related his conversation with a Latuka chief, who argued that when a man dies there is an end of him. He, Mr. Wallace, was of opinion that all races believe in the existence of unseen things.

[[regarding a paper on the anthropology of Lower Brittany]]

    [[p. 404]] Mr. Wallace did not see that the subject under discussion afforded any evidence in favour of the doctrine of natural selection.

[[regarding a paper on ancient Peruvian hieroglyphics]]

    [[p. 407]] Mr. Wallace said, that throughout the Valley of the Amazon, wherever granite was found in such a position that it could be marked, [[p. 408]] rude sketches of canoes, animals, implements and utensils were cut in it. It is remarkable that they should be cut in granite deep enough to be permanent. It would indeed be odd if all that trouble had been taken if they were not intended as a record.

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