An evolutionary excursion (Part II)

As promised, here’s Part II of the Evolutionary Excursion!

It was an absolute pleasure meeting Barry Clarke at a sharing by Wallace expert – Dr George Beccaloni at Science Centre Singapore on 4 December 2013. The Managing Director at Taylor & Francis Asia Pacific communicated with zeal, his dream of erecting a statue of Alfred Russel Wallace right here in Singapore in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Wallace, as we know, independently discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection in Indonesia which I’d mentioned in my earlier post – An Evolutionary Excursion (Part I). This year marks the 100th anniversary of his death and there’s been a celebration of events in a few parts of the world, including the unveiling of a bronze statue of Alfred Russel Wallace at London’s Natural History Museum on 7 November 2013, to pay tribute to the great naturalist.

A similar endeavour is hoped to be realised here – with plans for a full-sized replica of the 2.2 metre Wallace statue unveiled in London, as a fitting legacy of his work and contribution to natural history. While Barry spearheads the local fundraising campaign, he has the support and partnership of Professor Peter Ng, Director, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research who said:

“It is therefore appropriate that we support this important exercise to erect a timely memorial to a man who has become an icon for so many biologists in Southeast Asia.”

The fundraising drive gained a boost with media publicity on The Straits Times on Christmas eve this year. Titled, the Drive for statue of ‘father of S’pore biodiversity’, the article mentioned that “Barry Clarke hopes to get pledges for an estimated $150,000 from individuals, as well as British and Singaporean firms.”

The Statue of Alfred Russel Wallace at the Natural History Museum, London. (Photos taken by Anthony Smith and provided courtesy of Barry Clarke)
The Statue of Alfred Russel Wallace at the Natural History Museum, London. (Photos taken by Anthony Smith and provided courtesy of Barry Clarke)

Barry shared with me what got him involved in this project.

“It was my biology school teacher, Mr Dave Knott, who first introduced me to ARW [Alfred Russel Wallace] when he suggested that I read the Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s wonderfully engaging account of his eight years in the region. I did not get around to reading it until I arrived in Singapore in 1991, but in between I picked up a degree in zoology from Cambridge, and made evolutionary theory the topic of one of my final year papers, so I bumped into Wallace a couple of times then.”

He also mentioned that his employer – Taylor & Francis, is the publisher of the Journal of Natural History which started in 1838. “In 1855, when the journal was called the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, it published a paper [the ‘Sarawak Law’] by Wallace” which is regarded as “a crucial contribution to the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection”.

Besides his interest in zoology, his admiration for Wallace and his professional work, what sparked his “active engagement” was meeting Dr George Beccaloni at the Natural History Museum in London in July 2013.

“As Chairman of the Wallace Memorial Fund, he told me about the plans for the statue in London and I immediately subscribed to that project. Upon my return to Singapore I talked to Peter Ng about the history of the idea of a statue at the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and volunteered to start a campaign with my wife, YT.”

As Barry rightfully states, “life is about leaving a legacy”. And so I wish him every success in this fundraising project that will help ensure Wallace continues to be remembered and recognised in Singapore.

Do contact him and his wife at if you are interested in making a pledge to this worthy cause.

And before you go, please check out the Wallace FB page, information on our Island Adventurer exhibition at Science Centre Singapore, and this neat YouTube video dramatising the life of Alfred Russel Wallace. Singapore is featured from the 9:55 min mark of this film, which was directed by Peter Crawford .

That’s a wrap for 2013 folks! Stay tuned for more interesting articles in 2014.

Take care, God bless and all the very best.

Yours Truly,

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kiat Teng says:

    Nice account of your interview with Barry Clarke, Danny!

    Hopefully the Wallace statue project can take flight here in Singapore!

    1. Danny says:

      Thanks Kiat Teng : )

      It’s great that the fundraising project has started to gain traction. I hope that the statue, when installed, will mark a significant milestone in putting Wallace on the evolutionary theory map, especially here in Asia.

  2. Barry Clarke says:

    Hi, Danny,
    Thanks for drawing attention to the campaign to have the statue of Wallace erected in Singapore: I will keep you posted of the progress we make. And thanks for mentioning my inspiring biology teacher, Dave Knott, who first got me seriously interested in life on earth… with a little help from David Attenborough. Too often the teaching profession is overlooked for the inspiration they give, and I will send Dave a link to this blog to let him know where this journey of mine started. The Wallace story is of global importance and I hope one day that all curricula around the world will mention Wallace along side Darwin when teaching evolutionary theory.
    All the best,
    Barry Clarke

    1. Danny says:

      You’re very welcome Barry. Thank you so much for leaving behind a substantial comment and for offering to send Dave a link to this blogpost. It’s really great that you have acknowledged the people who have helped shape your interests in life. I’m very sure that Dave Knott will be most pleased to hear of his early influence. And I certainly hope that your efforts in drawing worldwide attention to Wallace will continue to bear significant fruit, particularly in 2014.

      I look forward to your updates about this grand endeavour and wish you the very best.

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