Posted by: Hendra Siry | 13 December, 2008

Ternate to build Wallace observatory

To honor British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace’s achievements in science, the municipality of Ternate, North Maluku, will build a monument and observatory in his name.

Ternate mayor Syamsir Andili said in Makassar on Thursday that his administration would reconstruct Wallace’s former home into a monument. The house, where Wallace lived for four years, was still in its originalcondition and the owner had agreed to the plans. Ternate will also rename a street in their town Jalan Alfred Russel Wallace.

“We also plan to build a one-hectare observatory that will exhibit plants and animals, the main focus of Wallace’s studies. We will begin acquiring the land next year,” he said at the opening of the four-day International Conference on Alfred Russel Wallace and the Wallacea in Makassar.

In 1858, Wallace inspired Charles Darwin to write the natural selection theory after he sent Darwin a letter detailing his findings in Ternate. The letter, attached to his essay On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type, outlined the mechanics of the evolutionary divergence of certain species due to environmental pressures.

While Darwin became exceedingly famous and has been dubbed the father of evolution, Wallace has remained largely unknown.

Syamsir hoped the research and science institutions nationwide would help with the construction of the observatory. Sangkot Marzuki, president of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI), supported the idea. “Since it was Wallace’s home, I am sure the area has many interesting and unique plants and animals,” he said

Djoko Iskandar, a lecturer at the Bandung Institute of Technology School of Life Sciences and Technology, said an observatory should be close to natural resources.

“The (Ternate) administration should establish whether the surrounding environment is in a good condition before constructing the observatory,” he said.

South Sulawesi Deputy Governor Agus Arifin Nu’mang said scientists should investigate Wallaces’ theories on evolution, so significant that a region in Central Indonesia was named Wallacea after him, to continue his legacy. Their work would also support The Wallacea Research and Development Foundation, an organization dedicated to the Wallacea region, he said.

He further encouraged researchers to join the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in studying the vast plant and animal species waiting to be discovered in the region.

“Wallace’s discoveries paved the way for important historical and scientific work to be rediscovered. Sulawesi and its satellite islands have distinctly unique flora and fauna which we need to sustain for the sake of the nation,” he said.

David Hallmark from Trinity College in the United Kingdom said the monument and observatory would not only promote Wallace’s life and studies but also boost the profile of the Wallacea Research and Development Foundation.

“Many pebbles make a beach. The monument, the observatory, scientific studies and exchange students will all lead to the development of good ideas for the Wallacea. There should be a connection between Ternate and other locations such as Maluku, Timor

Source: The Jakarta Post – December 12, 2008
By. Andi Hajramurni and Tifa Asrianti, Makassar, South Sulawesi

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