LONDON – A collection of insects belonging to a 19th-century evolutionary scientist and discovered in an attic by the man's grandson has gone on display at the Natural History Museum in Britain.
The grandson of 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.
"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," George Beccaloni, a curator at the Natural History Museum and an expert on Wallace, said Friday. "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 with the Latin name Batocera wallacei.
Several of the specimens illustrated in his 1869 travel book, "The Malay Archipelago," are also in the collection.