On an atlas or a world map, put your finger on Bali. Travel up between Bali and Lombok to the Macassar Strait, pass between Borneo and Celebes, glide east, brushing the Philippines to the Palau archipelago. Congratulations: you have just drawn the Wallace line. An imaginary frontier named in honor of Alfred Russel Wallace, a Darwinist before Darwinism was formalized in a book in 1859. The life and work of this contemporary of the author of The Origin of Species have long been forgotten. His story, however, is inextricably intertwined with that of Charles Darwin.
Wallace was born in 1823, in England during the industrial revolution. The last child of eight siblings, he is the son of a father who swallows up his scarce income in questionable and doomed financial investments. A good student, he nevertheless rejects the teaching of the school which he finds mediocre, outdated. He prefers to take refuge in books. Books that