- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
A campaign to raise funds for a statue of a Welsh scientist who proposed the theory of natural selection with Charles Darwin is £30,000 short with just one week to go before it closes.
Campaigners had hoped to unveil a life-sized bronze statue of Alfred Russel Wallace at the Natural History Museum in London in November to mark 100 years since the Monmouthshire-born scientist’s death.
However, a fund-raising shortfall of more than half the money needed for the £50,000 monument means it will probably be scaled down to a small bust.
The issue was debated on the floor of the Senedd this week (Tuesday, 22 Jan) when Mid and West Wales AM Joyce Watson asked the First Minister to “spread the message” ahead of the 31 January donation deadline.
Mrs Watson said:
“This week the Natural History Museum launched the Wallace100 project. It is fantastic that this man from Usk is finally getting the recognition that his immense achievements deserve. The focus of the anniversary is the planned unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue at the Natural History Museum in November. I contacted the fundraising campaign, and it has so far raised £20,000 of the £50,000 needed. However, unfortunately, it has to close on 31 January to give the artist enough time to make the sculpture.
“Will the First Minister join me today in celebrating one of Wales’s greatest sons? I am hoping to raise awareness of the fundraising drive in this final week to spread the message, so that Alfred Russel Wallace is commemorated in style”.
The First Minister said he was “happy to provide support,” adding:
“It is important that we are able to celebrate the work of people who are Welsh-born and have made such a great contribution to science”.
Although the theory of evolution by “survival of the fittest” is often attributed solely to Darwin, the idea was first put forward in a scientific article published jointly by Wallace and Darwin in 1858.
Wallace, who was born in Llanbadoc, near Usk, worked as a surveyor in Wales in his early life. He set out the street plan of Llandrindod Wells and later designed the Mechanics Institute in Neath, where he lived with his brother.
Dr George Beccaloni, curator and expert on Wallace, is organising a series of events this year as part of the Wallace100 project. He said:
“It would be a great shame if we are unable to raise enough money to commission a life-size statue as planned and that there is only a small bust of him to unveil – especially as Wallace’s colleague Darwin has such a grand marble statue!”
“Evolution by natural selection has been described as “..arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind…” yet the co-discoverer of the theory has been overshadowed by his illustrious co-author, and few know who he is or what he did.
“This year is the 100th anniversary of Wallace’s death and the spotlight will be on his life and work, with numerous books, TV and radio programmes, conferences and exhibitions planned worldwide. The Natural History Museum in London is planning an exciting series of events as part of its Wallace100 celebrations, which will culminate with the unveiling of the sculpture of Wallace on the 7th November, the actual anniversary of his death.”
The National Science Academy is also funding Welsh theatre company, Theatr na n’Óg to tour schools in Wales with a performance about Wallace’s life and work.
For information more about the Wallace statue fund, and to donate, visit: http://wallacefund.info/statue