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

Report to the Council, By the Examiner in
Physical Geography for 1870 (S168a: 1870)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: For the two years 1869 and 1870 Wallace served the Royal Geographical Society as an examiner for their annual school geography competitions. It is not clear whether Wallace only scored the exams, or created the questions as well. No comments on the 1869 competitions were printed, but in 1870 both Wallace (physical geography) and the examiner for political geography produced reports that were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society issue of 15 August 1870. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with:

     [[p. 255]] "Gentlemen,--The following are the names of the successful candidates in this year's examination:--


Gold Medal . . . . George Grey Butler . . . . Liverpool College.
Bronze Medal . . . . Martin Stewart . . . . Rossall School.

Honourably Mentioned.

Equal : William Hind . . . . Cheltenham College.
             George Hughes . . . . Liverpool Institute.
3. Frederick Joseph Beckley . . . . King's School, Sherborne.
4. Frederick William Hunt . . . . University College School.
5. Robert Frederick Whittingham Shawe . . . . Cheltenham College.
6. Ernest C. Thomas . . . . Manchester Grammar School.

     "The most characteristic feature of the papers submitted to me is the very general superiority of those on the special to those on the general subject. [[p. 256]] Even those candidates who show an almost complete ignorance of general physical geography, have got up the subject of India, so as to answer a considerable number of the questions with tolerable accuracy.

     "Out of the 35 papers on Physical Geography, only about 15 showed any competent knowledge of the subject; the remainder appearing to be written by boys who had not been properly prepared, and were very ignorant of what was required. Many have no clear notion of what is meant by Physical, as distinguished from Political Geography, as evinced by giving 'healthiness' or 'unhealthiness' as a sufficient description of the climate of a place. Several do not know what a section means, and instead of drawing one, write long descriptions of the line of section. Almost all give lists of cultivated products as a sufficient description of the vegetation of a district.

     "It might, perhaps, be advisable to make these deficiencies known, at least to the masters of the competing schools, in order that they might not in future waste their time in superintending the examination of boys who have no possible chance of success.

     "The questions most imperfectly answered by all the candidates are those which relate to the geographical distribution of plants, animals, and the races of mankind: a circumstance which is, no doubt, to be attributed to the very imperfect manner in which these subjects are treated, not only in school geographies, but also in works of much higher pretensions. Notwithstanding a note to the effect that the word 'animals' included the whole animal kingdom, most of the candidates appeared to understand it as applying exclusively to mammalia, and more especially to the larger domesticated mammalia.

     "The prize papers, are, however, very good, and are well deserving of the honour they have achieved. That of the Gold Medallist in particular is excellent, not only for the amount of information well and clearly expressed in it, but also for the accuracy and beauty of its sketch-maps and sections, and its general neatness of execution, which latter quality, however, has had no weight in determining the high position it has attained, which is due solely to its other merits. That which has gained the Bronze Medal, although undoubtedly somewhat inferior, is also very good; and both these stand at a considerably higher level of excellence than those which follow them, and whose writers are deemed worthy of honourable mention. It is to be remarked that the two prizemen stood first and second respectively in the list of honourable mentions last year.

     "Out of the seventeen schools which have competed in Physical Geography this year, only seven are worthy of special mention, as shown in the following list:--

Number of Candidates.

Liverpool College . . . . 3 . . . . Gold Medal, two inferior.
Rossall School . . . . 4 . . . . Bronze Medal, one good, two inferior.
Cheltenham College . . . . 2 . . . . First and fifth of honourable mentions.
Liverpool Institute . . . . 1 . . . . First honourable mention.
King's School, Sherborne . . . . 4 . . . . Third honourable mention, two inferior.
University College School . . . . 1 . . . . Fourth honourable mention.
Manchester Grammar School . . . . 3 . . . . Sixth honourable mention, two good.

"May 5th, 1870. Alfred R. Wallace,
"Examiner in Physical Geography."

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