Alfred Wallace Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

In this lesson, we'll learn about Alfred Wallace, the largely-unknown scientist who helped come up with the theory of evolution. Find out how his curiosity about the world around him helped him make some very important discoveries.

Who is Alfred Wallace?

What do you think about when you're going for a walk or playing outside? You might be focused on the playground, but if you're someone like Alfred Wallace, you're probably paying more attention to what is happening in nature.

Alfred Wallace was a kind of scientist called a naturalist who studies animals and plants. He lived in England in the 1800s but traveled around the world. Wallace was a leader in the field of biogeography, which asks why certain animals live where they do. Wallace's ideas were very important in developing how we think about nature today.

Alfred Wallace

Early Life

Wallace was born on January 8, 1823, in Wales and was one of nine kids. His family didn't have a lot of money, so he only went to school for a short time. But he did not stop learning! He spent time reading books, studying maps, and gardening at home.

Wallace went to work with one of his brothers making maps and surveys, a special kind of map that shows detailed information about a piece of property. While working, Wallace met people from all different backgrounds and saw that the poor were treated differently. The job also gave Wallace the chance to spend more time outside, and he began to study nature.

World Traveler

To learn more about nature, Wallace and a friend went to Brazil in 1848. He spent four years traveling, drawing maps, and collecting specimens, which are parts of or entire plants, animals, or other items that scientists can study to learn more about them. Wallace sent some home but brought most of his collection on a ship with him. When the boat sank, Wallace could only save some of his work.

For his next adventure, Wallace went to a group of islands called the Malay Archipelago, located north of Australia. Wallace collected thousands of specimens of plants, bugs, birds, and animals to bring home. He focused on different kinds of plants and animals and came up with ideas about how they may have changed over time. He also noticed that there were some animals that live in only one place in the world and not another. On one of his maps, Wallace drew a line that divides the animals of Asia and Australia. This boundary came to be called the 'Wallace Line'.

Map of travels around the Malay Archipelago

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