The University of Reading Herbarium hosts a fascinating historic collection of ferns amassed by the energetic and well connected Katherine Murray Lyell, wife of Henry Lyell, but also sister-in-law to Sir Charles Lyell (who was married to Katherine’s sister Mary).
Among Katherine Lyell’s fern collections are several specimens collected by Alfred Russell Wallace in Borneo. Wallace famously co-authored the paper ‘On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection’ with Charles Darwin, a paper published in the Journal of the proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology in August 1858. The paper was communicated by Sir Charles Lyell and J.D.Hooker (then Assistant Director of Kew). Our Wallace collections were made during this crucial time when he was developing the highly controversial idea that species were mutable and not a direct and unchanged product of creation.