Expect the unexpected...

Henry Walter Bates
Portrayed by Calum Finlay

Born in Leicester, England in 1825, the humble grandson and son of sock makers, Henry Walter Bates had an insatiable curiosity for the natural world and an unstoppable passion for collecting, especially beetles.
He was a multi-talented, creative, warm and fun-loving person who played the guitar, was often singing or humming and with his restless and inquiring mind often mumbling to himself or to his pet monkeys with an endless array of new thoughts and ideas (it can get lonely in the jungle). Bates was an exquisite watercolour illustrator who taught himself Greek, French, Portuguese and German, was an entertaining storyteller and gifted writer and really enjoyed sharing his knowledge and passion. He was loved by all and when he died, the testimonials, from a wide range of people, were overwhelming in their praise and respect for Bates as a professional and as an extraordinary human being.
  • 11 Years in the Amazon —From 1848-1859 Bates explored the rivers and rainforests of the lower and upper Amazon region.

  • 8,000 Species New to Science —Bates collected over 14,500 different species in the Amazon and 8,000 new to science.

  • 2 Ground breaking Discovery —Darwin himself said that Bates' work solved one of the most perplexing science problems of their day

He left home and journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean at 23 to explore the wilds of the Amazon rainforest—a perilous adventure that would change his life forever. After having secured initial funding from Samuel Stevens, a natural history agent in London who bought and sold exotic specimens, Bates and his likeminded friend Alfred Wallace immediately started collecting specimens with the goal of discovering evidence that animals change, contrary to Victorian belief.

Without the assistance of natives, Bates would never have been able to explore and survive in the remote and uninhabited areas of the vast Amazon rainforest and make his incredible discoveries. He learned many different native languages, customs, hunting methods and they shared a common respect and understanding of nature, which he wrote about in his adventure book. He won Brazil's highest honour for his many achievements there.

Although unknown to the general public, Henry Bates made crucial contributions to evolutionary biology by discovering the phenomenon of mimicry, now known as Batesian mimicry, whereby a non-toxic animal imitates a toxic one, and putting forward the first case for speciation—the changing of a new species from another, and collecting over 8,000 species new to science.

Charles Darwin said that Bates’ mimicry discoveries, “solved one of the most perplexing problems which could be given to solve” and were “the beautiful proof” for Darwin’s theory on natural selection—considered the greatest scientific explanation for the development of life on earth. Bates recounted his adventures and findings in his best selling book, The Naturalist on the River Amazons, 1863.

Bates was awarded Brazil’s highest honour–The Order of the Rose–and was elected to the Royal Society with the world’s most eminent scientists.

Bates, Darwin and Wallace remained friends for life, with Bates even naming one of his sons “Charles” and another “Darwin”.