A Final Plea to Save Alfred Russel Wallace's Historically Important Medals

A final plea to save Wallace's historically very important medals from disappearing into a private collection:

The theory of evolution by natural selection has been described as "…arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind...” (Dawkins, 2007), but it was in fact discovered by two minds, not just one. Although many people know something about the theory, relatively few realise that it was published jointly by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in August 1858. Fifteen months later the hypothesis was elaborated and popularised in Darwin's book Origin of Species, and the rest is history. Perhaps surprisingly, Darwin never received a single award for his role as its co-discoverer, as is explained here: https://wallacefund.myspecies.info/content/darwins-lifetime-he-was-not-awarded-medal-his-discovery-natural-selection-wallace-was Wallace, however, received no less than five medals (from the Linnean and Royal Societies) for his part in proposing the theory, making these the only awards honouring the theory's discovery (please see https://wallacefund.myspecies.info/honours-wallace-received). They are without doubt the last important artefacts connected to this great discovery still in private hands.

Wallace's medals were sold individually at an auction on the 20th July 2022 (they are shown below). One of them (the Linnean Society's Darwin-Wallace gold medal, below) was sold to a private overseas buyer for £75,000, but the rest (6 medals, one commemorative token, and Wallace's prestigious Order of Merit badge) were all purchased by medal expert and dealer Mr Roan Hackney (https://london-medals.co.uk/about-us) in an attempt to save them for the nation and prevent them from disappearing into private collections worldwide. Roan has an agreement with the auction house that he does not have to pay for the medals for 6 months (i.e. until 10 January 2023), in which time he hopes they can be purchased by an organisation for cost price (c. £250,000). If no buyer is found then he will be forced to sell them, and he already has interest from an American collector. Roan is a professional medal dealer and believes that he purchased the medals for much less than their true value. He is an expert on Polar exploration medals and says that had the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, which Wallace recieved, been awarded to a Polar explorer, its value would have been in the region of £200,000 alone.

The historical value of the medals cannot be overstated and there is this one opportunity to acquire them for a public collection, otherwise they will probably be exported overseas and lost to public view. 2023 sees the 200th anniversary of Wallace's birth and interest in his life and work is increasing. Approximately 10 books about him are in preparation (including the best biography ever written - see https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691233796/radical-by-nature); a major exhibition in the National Museum of Natural Science of Spain in Madrid is being planned, and several day symposia will be taking place in the UK. Given that natural selection is of such importance to science and humanity (including the understanding of drug resistance in pathogenic viruses, bacteria, protozoa etc) it would be an immense loss to British heritage if the medals were sold to a private individual.

The Royal Geographical, Linnean and Royal Societies are very keen for the medals to be purchased by a British institution and kept together. However, their finances are such that they are unable to buy them. The original auction catalogue can be seen here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QKrDdYe8q6LpGc6q_DlH4e52E-QETHRm/view?usp=sharing

Wallace's unique gold version of the Linnean Society's Darwin-Wallace Medal, already sold to an anonymous private collector.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith