Last week, I visited an old friend, Jerome Pang. He has one of the most interesting, if not rare, jobs in Singapore. He is an archivist in a private archive; classifying, restoring and preserving old documents and records.
He surprised me by saying "I read this book on Charles Darwin and were you the James Tann mentioned in it?"
"What? Me? In a book about Darwin? Who wrote it?"
"A professor or something named Van Wyhe"
Then I recalled!
Dr John Van Wyhe is a Senior Lecturer at the Depts of Biological Sciences & History at NUS.
He is the foremost authority today on the life of Charles Darwin as well as Darwin's contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace.
It was about Alfred Wallace that we corresponded with each other about a year ago.
At that time he told me that he was completing his book and was interested in what I wrote about Wallace during his stay at Bukit Timah in 1854.
Also there was a bit of confusion over the actual St Joseph Church building that Alfred Wallace lived at during his exploration in Singapore. I knew it to be the 2nd reconstruction whereas Dr Van Wyhe could only find references to it being the original. He was also interested in the 1852 map of Singapore which I sourced from the UK archive which he had not seen before.
Dr John van Wyhe has since published his book titled: "Dispelling the Darkness : Voyage in the malay archipelago and the discovery of evolution by Wallace and Darwin"
Intrigued by why my name would be in his book, I made a quick trip down to the National Library and found that the book was only available as reference material at the LKC Reference Library.
The book is an easy read for a scientific tome and has quite a good anecdotal account of the events relating to Wallace's jaunts around Bukit Timah. Then I found my name...
Aahh, it was an acknowledgement by Dr van Wyhe to all those who provided 'help' in contributing to his book. It's nice to have your little name amongst the so many famous contributors, although I really didn't think I contributed much. Thanks Dr John van Wyhe.
For those of you who may be still, up to now, wondering who Alfred Wallace is (unforgiveable!),
here is a primer from an earlier blog I wrote.
Alfred Russel Wallace in Bukit Timah