Famed evolutionary scientist's favorite collection on display at British museum

The Natural History Museum in Britain said Friday it had acquired a historic collection of 150-year-old insects discovered in an attic.

The grandson of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace who with Charles Darwin pioneered the theory of evolution by natural selection had been cleaning out the attic at his home in New Forest, southeast England, when he came across the 219 specimens.

Curator George Beccaloni, an expert on Wallace, spent more than 40 hours repairing the collection, which he said contained "the most spectacular of specimens."

"At the end of the 1860s Wallace sold most of his collection to support his family, but he kept trays of the specimens he was most fond of to show to friends and family," Beccaloni said. "Those trays are what we have now."

Wallace traveled extensively throughout southeast Asia in the 1850s and 1860s, collecting birds, bugs and beetles. The 219 specimens discovered are just a small portion of the 126,000 he amassed, and are now on display at the Natural History Museum.

Finding the insects badly damaged and ironically infested with other bugs, Wallace's 82-year-old grandson Richard passed them to the London museum, where they were painstakingly restored and added to the rest of Wallace's private collection.

The collection includes some of the scientist's most impressive discoveries, including the gigantic longhorn beetle Batocera wallacei, which is named after Wallace. Several of the specimens illustrated in his 1869 travel book, "The Malay Archipelago," are also in the collection, reports AP.


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