Singapore, 1 August 2009 - Mention the term 'Evolution' to anyone and instantly Charles Darwin comes to mind. Few are familiar with the name Alfred Russel Wallace, also known as the other 'father' of the Theory of Evolution. And, even fewer are aware that Singapore was Wallace's base when he was exploring the 'Malayan Archipelago'.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens recognises and pays tribute to Wallace's significant legacy by putting together a special exhibition entitled "Two Minds, One Theory: Wallace & Darwin, the Two Faces of Evolution Theory" that will be displayed at the Gardens from 1st to 30th August 2009. The exhibition is part of the Gardens' series of commemorative events to mark its 150th anniversary. The Gardens was established in 1859, the same year as the publication of Darwin's groundbreaking book on The Origin of Species.
After travelling through the wild places of the Southeast Asian region, Wallace, the equally brilliant but lesser known Briton, came up with the idea of evolution the same time as Darwin. In fact, Singapore was used as a base by Wallace for his regional operations and he wrote enthusiastically in his journals of his productive explorations of local areas such as the Bukit Timah Hill forests, at a time when tigers still roamed this island.
The "Two Minds, One Theory: Wallace & Darwin, the Two Faces of Evolution Theory" exhibition also contains a uniquely Singaporean flavour, literally. For example, it will reveal little-known facts such as Wallace being the first to describe the durian as "the King of Fruits". In one of his journals, he waxed lyrical about the durian's unique appearance, odour, texture and flavour -"the more you eat of it, the less you feel inclined to stop".
Wallace returned to his native London in 1862 after his epic eight-year journey through our region, armed with a massive collection of 125,660 wildlife specimens, of which about 1,000 were species new to Science.
Wallace came to the same conclusion on the Evolution Theory at about the same time as Darwin and both great thinkers communicated and collaborated on the groundbreaking idea of natural selection. Darwin eventually published On the Origins of Species in 1859 - a book that changed forever our understanding of the nature of life.
This highly educational exhibition will also entertain with its colourful images of biodiversity in the tropics - of Wallace's favourite beetles from Singapore's forests, of stick insects that mimic twigs for camouflage purposes, and of butterflies that pretend to be poisonous.
Dr Chin See Chung, Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, said, "We are very excited to have been able to put together this exhibition that allows people in Singapore to know the role Singapore played in Wallace's ' Evolution Theory'. It is a great occasion to commemorate the great feats of Wallace and Darwin in 2009 also because the Gardens' birthday coincides with the publication anniversary of Darwin's book. Through this educational but entertaining exhibition, we hope visitors to the Singapore Botanic Gardens will be able to discover the Evolution story. More importantly, we hope they will be reminded of the work and legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace and his deep connections to Southeast Asia and Singapore in particular."
The exhibition is free for the public and will be held at the Library of Botany and Horticulture, Botany Centre at the Singapore Botanic Gardens from 1 August to 30 August 2009.