How Did Alfred Wallace’s Theory Compare to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?


Martha Robinson

Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist, is known for his contribution to the theory of evolution. He independently arrived at a similar conclusion as Charles Darwin, which led to the joint presentation of their theories in 1858. But how did Wallace’s theory compare to Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Background Information

Before we delve into the comparison between Wallace’s and Darwin’s theories of evolution, it is important to understand a little bit about their background and how they arrived at their respective conclusions.

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist who traveled on the HMS Beagle for five years and collected specimens from various parts of the world. He observed that there were variations within species and that some individuals had characteristics that made them better adapted to their environment. He proposed that over time, these advantageous traits would be passed down to their offspring, leading to the gradual evolution of species.

Alfred Russel Wallace, on the other hand, was a self-taught naturalist who traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia and South America. He too observed variations within species but focused more on biogeography – the study of how species are distributed across different regions. Wallace noted that similar species were found in geographically distant locations and proposed that this was due to migration from a common ancestral population.

Their Theories Compared

While both Darwin and Wallace arrived at similar conclusions regarding evolution, there were some differences in their theories.

  • Natural Selection: Both Darwin and Wallace proposed natural selection as the mechanism driving evolution. However, while Darwin believed that competition among individuals led to the survival of those with advantageous traits, Wallace emphasized environmental pressures such as climate change or geographical barriers.
  • Human Evolution: Unlike Darwin, who believed that humans evolved from apes through a gradual process, Wallace believed that human evolution was unique and driven by intellectual and social factors rather than natural selection.
  • Sexual Selection: Darwin proposed sexual selection as a mechanism for the development of traits that were not directly related to survival. Wallace, on the other hand, did not consider sexual selection to be an important factor in evolution.

Their Legacy

Despite these differences, both Darwin and Wallace made significant contributions to our understanding of evolution. Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species” is widely considered to be one of the most influential works in the history of science. Wallace’s work on biogeography paved the way for modern studies on biodiversity and conservation.


In conclusion, while there were some differences in their theories, Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory of evolution was very similar to Charles Darwin’s theory. Both naturalists proposed natural selection as a mechanism driving evolution and made significant contributions towards our understanding of how species evolve over time.