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

 
 
Letter to Samuel Waddington (S680a: 1909)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A 1901 letter to Samuel Waddington, reproduced in Waddington's autobiography Chapters of My Life in 1909. Preceded below by the enquiry from Waddington that led to it. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S680A.htm


[[p. 207]] '7 Whitehall Gardens,
'London, S.W.
'February 19, 1901.

'Dear Sir,

     'I trust you will forgive a stranger troubling you with a letter, but a friend has asked me whether, as a matter of fact, Darwin held that all living creatures are descended from one and the same ancestor, and that the pedigree of Humming-bird [[p. 208]] and that of a Hippopotamus would meet if traced far enough back. Can you tell me whether Darwin did teach this?

     'I should have thought that as Life was developed once, it probably could and would be developed many times in different places, as month after month, and year after year, went by; and that, from the very first, it probably took many different forms and characters, in the same way as crystals take different forms and shapes, even when composed of the same substance. From these many developments of "life" would descend as many separate lines of Evolution, one ending in the Humming-bird, another in the Hippopotamus, a third in the Kangaroo, etc., and their pedigrees (however far back they might be traced) would not join until they reached some primitive form of protoplasm.

'Believe me,
'Yours very truly,
'Samuel Waddington.

'A. R. Wallace, Esq.'

     To this letter Dr. Wallace kindly sent me the following reply which quite removed any possibility of doubt upon the subject:--

[[p. 209]] 'Parkstone, Dorset,
'February 23, 1901.

'Dear Sir,

     'Darwin believed that all living things originated from "a few forms or from one," as stated in the last sentence of his "Origin of Species." But privately, I am sure he believed in the one origin. Of course there is a bare possibility that there were several distinct origins from inorganic matter, but it is extremely improbable, because in that case we should expect to find some difference in the earliest forms of the germs of life. But there is no such difference, the primitive germ-cells of a man, fish, or oyster, being almost indistinguishable, formed of identical matter, and going through identical primitive changes. As to the Humming-bird and Hippopotamus, there is no doubt whatever of a common origin, if Evolution is accepted at all; since both are vertebrates, a very high type of organism whose ancestral forms can be traced back to a simple type much earlier than the common origin of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

'Yours very truly,
'Alfred R. Wallace.

Samuel Waddington, Esq.'


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