Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Bates, Henry Walter (England 1825-1892)
entomology, evolutionary biology, field biology
Henry Walter Bates has a permanent place in the history of natural history
by virtue of his eleven year stint as a collector in tropical Brazil,
the famous travel book he wrote describing his adventure, and his pulling
together of geographical data, field observation, and Darwinian theory
to fashion the theory of protective mimicry. Bates was headed for a dull
life as a clerk at a brewery in Leicester when by chance he ran into Alfred Russel
Wallace at a library in that city, where Wallace
was working temporarily as a master at a private school. Bates had already published some
short notes on entomology and was an avid amateur collector; Wallace's
interest was sparked and he kept in touch when he left the area. A couple
of years later he suggested to Bates that they travel to the Amazon region
as professional collectors. They did so, and while Wallace stayed there
four years before moving on, Bates remained a full eleven years. On returning
to London he began publishing important entomological works culminating
in "Contributions to an Insect Fauna..." which included interesting zoogeographical
analysis and developed his theory of protective resemblance, ever since
known as Batesian mimicry. The next year he brought out his The Naturalist
on the River Amazons, which quickly reached major classic status
as an example of literary scientific travel writing. The rest of Bates's
life, however, proved something of a denouement. His work as secretary
to the Royal Geographical Society starting in 1864 was rather demanding
(though it allowed him plenty of opportunities to assist other naturalists
in a variety of significant ways), and although he continued to produce
good descriptive entomological work he never ventured into the realm of
--born in Leicester, England, on 8 February 1825.
--1838: Bates's formal education ends (but he later takes night classes
at a local mechanics' institute) and he is apprenticed to a hosiery manufacturer
--1843: his first scientific publication, a short work on beetles for
--1844: meets Alfred Russel Wallace in Leicester
--1848: Bates and Wallace travel to Pará, at the mouth of the Amazon,
to begin a natural history collecting expedition
--1849: Bates and Wallace separate, Bates concentrating on the central
and lower Amazon basin
--1859: after eleven years in the field in the Amazon, returns to England
--1862: publishes "Contributions
to an Insect Fauna of the Amazon Valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidae"
in the Transactions of the Linnean Society, developing theories
on geographical distribution and the basis of mimetic protection
--1863: publishes his The
Naturalist on the River Amazons, in two volumes
--1864-1892: assistant secretary of the Royal Geographical Society
--1868-1869, 1878: president of the Entomological Society of London
--1871: elected a fellow of the Linnean Society of London
--1881: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--dies at London, England, on 16 February 1892.
--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,
Vol. 4 (2004).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography,
Vol. 1 (1970).
--Proceedings of the Royal Geographical
Society, Vol. 14 (1892): 245-257.
--Archives of Natural History, Vol.
19 (1992): 209-218.
--Nature, Vol. 45 (1892):
--Archives of Natural History, Vol.
22(2) (1995): 195-219.
--Henry Walter Bates FRS, 1825-1892: Explorer,
Scientist, and Darwinian (1976).
Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights
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