Monument to Wallace unveiled in Indonesia

by Greg Mayer

George Beccaloni, fellow Wallaceophile, has sent word that a monument to Alfred Russel Wallace has been erected on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Wallace Monument, Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi. Photo by Simon Purser.

As described at the Alfred Russel Wallace Website of the Wallace Memorial Fund by George and Simon Purser, the monument is a full bust, greater than life size (about 5-6 feet tall), on a nearly 9 foot tall plinth. It’s in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, near Batu Putih, in the northeastern part of Sulawesi, an area Wallace visited during his travels in the East Indies. Wallace described the area in The Malay Archipelago as a particularly wild spot, with anoa (dwarf buffalo) and babirusa (an endemic pig) common. Those ungulates are gone from the area today, but it remains a popular spot for birding and seeing the Celebes black “ape” (actually a monkey; “Celebes” is an earlier, Portuguese, spelling of the Indonesian name of the island).

Bill Wallace, Alfred’s great grandson, prepared a video greeting shown to the assembled dignitaries at the monument’s inauguration.

Here at WEIT we’ve often commented on the great British naturalist, and readers will recall our several Wallace Year (2013) commemorations.

Wallace bust at Tangkoko.


  1. merilee
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink


  2. Mark R.
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Very cool. I don’t think I’ve seen a statue wearing spectacles.

    • tomh
      Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Teddy Roosevelt on Mt Rushmore.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Yes, Teddy is bespectacled. As he is chiseled out of rock, the glasses are more or less suggested and do not actually form an open loop.

        • Mark R.
          Posted March 5, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, only the bridge is clearly visible. But I imagine there are other statues of TR that are bespectacled.

    Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I never heard of Wallace until I came to United States about 46 yrs ago. In my high school education first time we had science education on Darwinian evolution by natural selection. This is great to think about Wallace who equally contributed to our understanding of evolution.

    Thanks Jerry for your enormous effort to educate and appreciate.


    • Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Well, Wallace didn’t contribute “equally,” I think, but he did make a big contribution. However, this post was by Greg Mayer, not me.


  4. Matthew North
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Wallace contributed much to science and was an excellent naturalist, biologist and the, “father of biogeography “. It’s too bad he was so credulous as to believe in that ridiculous nonsense, spiritualism.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 5, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      And biogeography remains one of our strongest arguments against creationism. Kudos to Wallace!

  5. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    He also got involved with Flat Earthers. He conclusively showed the Earth was curved by hanging a weight from three bridges in line exactly one meter (well I guess one yard) above the water and showed they were not in line. So elegant. To no avail of course, Flat Earthers are impervious to reason. But still he tried.
    What I find so great about Wallace is that when he lost all his collections (years of collecting) from South America due to a ship-fire (and sinking), he indefatigably resumed his collecting in Indonesia and Arau. What energy!
    His weakest point is/was of course what he shares with the RCC and Francis Collins: Humans are special, natural selection could not have formed human brains and morality.
    His posting his Natural Selection hypothesis (still a hypothesis at that stage) to -of all people- Charles Darwin, still remains one of the greatest, what shall I call it, coincidences (?) of history.
    I am quite happy the Indonesians saw it fit to honour this extraordinary man with a statue.

    • Posted March 5, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      I am also glad both for Wallace and for the Indonesians.

  6. Posted March 5, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Wallace Year is 2103? I’m sorry but I’ll likely miss it.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink


  8. Posted March 5, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Bill Bailey (Black Books) was a big fan of Wallace and made a documentry on his life or more to the point, Wallace’s exploratary efforts in Indonesia to coincide getting a statue erected in the Natural History Museum in London. Have to say he was a rugged and determined individual and deserves his place next to Darwin.
    or YouTube the Bill Bailey series, a good watch i thought.

  9. Joe Dickinson
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Jerry should like this. My daughter has two cats, Darwin and Wallace. I would post their picture but I don’t know how.

  10. zackoz
    Posted March 5, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s quite unusual for Indonesians to pay attention to evolution, as their society is dominated by religion. I wonder what the negotiations with local authorities were like. I’d imagine the point that convinced them to honour Wallace was his historical role in identifying the “Malay archipelago”‘s (i.e., Indonesia’s) importance to science.And maybe it’s significant that the monument is on Sulawesi rather than the Moluccas where Wallace wrote his famous letter to Darwin about natural selection.

    • Posted March 5, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Actually much of Indonesia (e.g. perhaps apart from Sumatra) seems happy to embrace evolution. I could not understand this but have been told that they can accept that life evolved – but humans were created. This is a very similar attitude to the Church of England and the Catholic Church. At least they are part way there!!

    • Posted March 8, 2019 at 12:09 am | Permalink

      Dear @zackoz,

      You may be pleased to hear, that the idea for the monument was actually initiated by the local authorities themselves – the mayor of Bitung City, in North Sulawesi to be precise. He had the original idea since 2016, when it was mentioned to him that Wallace visited the coast there to collect Maleo specimens. He knew about Wallace already, but was previously unaware and pleasantly surprised that ARW had visited his own jurisdiction – and immediately exclaimed “harus bikin patung disana!” ( = “we should build a statue there!”).

      There were various negotiations – but only about the specific location to erect the monument and what it should look like, until it was finally decided late last year to make this bust in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve and unveil it on the centenary celebration of Tangkoko as a conservation area. The spot is probably not very far from where Wallace camped for a week in September 1859 to shoot and eat the local wildlife and send their preserved skins, etc back to his dealer.

      Note, from a religious perspective this region in Indonesia is predominantly Christian, thanks to the indoctrination by the Dutch missionaries (which Wallace also wrote about; how the Dutch had quickly succeeded in converting these previously savage tribes into civilised people).

      There are also Islamic areas of Indonesia, for example the North Moluccas, where there are also current plans to erect monuments to Wallace in the near future.

  11. Dominic
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Nice to see this – a great scientist, even if he did think humans were a special case…

    • Posted March 6, 2019 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      He was a materialist non-believer when he devised his theory of natural selection, and he ended up being one of the last defenders of the theory when it was abandoned by most scientists after Darwin’s death. For a list of Wallaces incredible contributions to science see

  12. Posted March 6, 2019 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    I would just like to add that 10 more monuments to Wallace are under consideration on many of the major islands visited by him in what is now called Wallacea. These are all initiatives by local people, and I think it is really great that they are acknowledging the amazing work he did in the region: not only discovering natural selection and proposing the Wallace Line, but also documenting its fauna on a scale no one had done before, or probably since. It is becoming clear that several nature reserves and National Parks in Wallacea (including Tangkoko in Sulawesi) owe their existence to Wallace, as the Dutch authorities at the time decided to protect the areas based on Wallace’s description of them in “The Malay Archipelago”. Also, several generations of naturalists were inspired to go to Wallacea to study its biodiversity thanks to Wallace e.g. read the interesting accounts of naturalists who did work in the MA here and see how often Wallace is mentioned: For up-to-date news about Wallace-related events etc see the Wallace Facebook page:

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 7, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I’m pleasantly surprised the colonial authorities took serious notice of his “The Malay Archipelago”.
      And even more pleased to see the locals now realising what an incredibly great work he did.

      • Posted March 7, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Yes, perhaps the Dutch liked him because he praised their colonial government and thought it so much better than the British! And many generations of naturalists of several nationalities incluuding British, Dutch, German etc went to the ‘Malay Archipelago’ to study its biodiversity as a direct result of Wallace’s writings. They include Eugene Dubois, A. B. Meyer and many others e.g. read the interesting accounts of naturalists who did work in the MA which Meyer lists here and see how often Wallace is mentioned:

  13. Forse
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Jerry, what to make of the WWF report that 60% of animals ?

    • Forse
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      … sorry… report that there’s been 60% reduction in wildlife since 1970?

  14. Posted March 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Good! Sometimes only the most famous of scientists get recognition and such.

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