How Charles Darwin received Wallace's Ternate paper 15 days earlier than he claimed: a comment on van Wyhe and Rookmaaker (2012)




Van Wyhe and Rookmaaker (2012) postulate a set of events to support their claim that Wallace's ‘evolution’ letter, posted at Ternate in the Moluccas in the spring of 1858, arrived at Darwin's home on 18 June 1858. If their claim were to be proven, then evidence that Darwin probably received Wallace's letter 2 weeks earlier than he ever admitted would clearly be erroneous, and any charges that he plagiarized the ideas of Wallace from that letter would be shown to be wrong. Here, evidence against this interpretation is presented and it is argued that the letter did indeed arrive in the port of Southampton on 2 June 1858 and would have been at Darwin's home near London the following day. If this were true, then the 66 new pages of material on aspects of Divergence that Darwin entered into his ‘big’ species book in the weeks before admitting he had received the letter could be interpreted as an attempt to present Wallace's ideas as his own. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 105, 472–477.