When we talk about the theory of evolution, two names come to mind – Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Both of them were naturalists and came up with their theories independently.

However, while Darwin’s theory of evolution is widely known and accepted, Wallace’s theory is not as well-known. In this article, we will take a closer look at how Wallace’s theory compared to Darwin’s.


Darwin and Wallace were both influenced by the work of Thomas Malthus who proposed that populations have the potential to increase faster than the food supply. This led to a struggle for survival in which only the fittest would survive to reproduce. This concept is known as “survival of the fittest.”

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

In 1859, Charles Darwin published his book “On the Origin of Species.” In his book, he proposed that species evolve over time through a process he called “natural selection.”

According to Darwin, variations within a species give some individuals an advantage over others in surviving and reproducing. These advantageous traits are then passed on to their offspring, leading to a gradual change in the species over time.

Natural Selection

Darwin believed that natural selection was the driving force behind evolution. He argued that natural selection acted on random variations within a population and favored those individuals that had traits that made them better adapted to their environment. Over time, these advantageous traits became more common within the population and eventually led to the formation of new species.

Wallace’s Theory of Evolution

Alfred Russel Wallace independently came up with a theory very similar to Darwin’s. In fact, he wrote a paper outlining his ideas and sent it to Darwin for his opinion. Darwin was shocked to see that Wallace had independently arrived at almost identical conclusions.

The Role of Natural Selection

Wallace believed that natural selection was the driving force behind evolution, just like Darwin. However, he placed more emphasis on the role of environmental pressures in shaping the direction of evolution. He argued that as environments change, different traits become advantageous, leading to the development of new species.

Human Evolution

One area where Wallace differed from Darwin was in his ideas about human evolution. Wallace believed that humans had evolved through a process he called “mental evolution.” According to Wallace, humans had developed their advanced mental abilities through a combination of natural selection and the influence of social and cultural factors.


In conclusion, while Darwin’s theory of evolution is more well-known and widely accepted, Wallace’s theory was very similar and arrived at independently. Both men believed that natural selection was the driving force behind evolution, but Wallace placed more emphasis on environmental pressures.

Additionally, Wallace had some unique ideas about human evolution that differed from Darwin’s. Overall, both men made significant contributions to our understanding of how species evolve over time.