John Maynard Smith
|Born||6 January 1920|
|Died||19 April 2004 84) (aged|
Lewes, East Sussex, England
|Alma mater|| Trinity College, Cambridge |
University College London
|Known for|| Game theory |
Evolution of sex
|Awards|| Frink Medal (1990)|
Balzan Prize (1991)
Sewall Wright Award (1995)
Linnean Medal (1995)
Royal Medal (1997)
Weldon Memorial Prize (1998)
Copley Medal (1999)
Crafoord Prize (1999)
Kyoto Prize (2001)
Linnean Society of London's Darwin-Wallace Medal – NB: awarded posthumously (2008)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1977)
|Fields||Evolutionary biologist and geneticist|
|Institutions||University of Sussex|
|Doctoral advisor||J. B. S. Haldane|
|Doctoral students||Sean Nee|
John Maynard Smith(6 January 1920 – 19 April 2004) was a British theoretical and mathematical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. Originally an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War, he took a second degree in genetics under the well-known biologist J. B. S. Haldane. Maynard Smith was instrumental in the application of game theory to evolution with George R. Price, and theorised on other problems such as the evolution of sex and signalling theory.
John Maynard Smith was born in London, the son of the surgeon Sidney Maynard Smith, but following his father's death in 1928, the family moved to Exmoor, where he became interested in natural history. Quite unhappy with the lack of formal science education at Eton College, Maynard Smith took it upon himself to develop an interest in Darwinian evolutionary theory and mathematics, after having read the work of old Etonian J. B. S. Haldane, whose books were in the school's library despite the bad reputation Haldane had at Eton for his communism. He became an atheist at age 14.
On leaving school, Maynard Smith joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and started studying engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, he defied his party's line and volunteered for service. He was rejected, however, because of poor eyesight and was told to finish his engineering degree, which he did in 1941. He later quipped that "under the circumstances, my poor eyesight was a selective advantage—it stopped me getting shot". The year of his graduation, he married Sheila Matthew, and they later had two sons and one daughter (Tony, Carol, and Julian). Between 1942 and 1947, he applied his degree to military aircraft design.
Maynard Smith, having decided that aircraft were “noisy and old-fashioned”,then took a change of career, entering University College London (UCL) to study fruit fly genetics under Haldane. After graduating he became a lecturer in Zoology at UCL between 1952 and 1965, where he directed the Drosophila lab and conducted research on population genetics. He published a popular Penguin book, The Theory of Evolution , in 1958 (with subsequent editions in 1966, 1975, 1993).
He became gradually less attracted to communism and became a less active member, finally leaving the Party in 1956like many other intellectuals, after the Soviet Union brutally suppressed the Hungarian Revolution (Haldane had left the party in 1950 after becoming similarly disillusioned).
In 1962 he was one of the founding members of the University of Sussex and was a Dean between 1965–85. He subsequently became a professor emeritus. Prior to his death the building housing much of Life Sciences at Sussex was renamed the John Maynard Smith Building, in his honour.
In 1973 Maynard Smith formalised a central concept in evolutionary game theory called the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS),based on a verbal argument by George R. Price. This area of research culminated in his 1982 book Evolution and the Theory of Games . The Hawk-Dove game is arguably his single most influential game theoretical model.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1977. In 1986 he was awarded the Darwin Medal.
Maynard Smith published a book entitled The Evolution of Sex which explored in mathematical terms, the notion of the "two-fold cost of sex". During the late 1980s he also became interested in the other major evolutionary transitions with the evolutionary biologist Eörs Szathmáry. Together they wrote an influential 1995 book The Major Transitions in Evolution , a seminal work which continues to contribute to ongoing issues in evolutionary biology.A popular science version of the book, entitled The Origins of Life: From the birth of life to the origin of language was published in 1999.
In 1991 he was awarded the Balzan Prize for Genetics and Evolution "For his powerful analysis of evolutionary theory and of the role of sexual reproduction as a critical factor in evolution and in the survival of species; for his mathematical models applying the theory of games to evolutionary problems" (motivation of the Balzan General Prize Committee). In 1995 he was awarded the Linnean Medal by The Linnean Society and in 1999 he was awarded the Crafoord Prize jointly with Ernst Mayr and George C. Williams. In 2001 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize.
In his honour, the European Society for Evolutionary Biology has an award for extraordinary young evolutionary biology researchers named The John Maynard Smith Prize .
His final book, Animal Signals, co-authored with David Harper, on signalling theory was published in 2003.
He died on 19 April 2004. He is survived by his wife Sheila and their children.
The John Maynard Smith Archive is housed at the British Library. The papers can be accessed through the British Library catalogue.
Ernst Walter Mayr was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, philosopher of biology, and historian of science. His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the modern evolutionary synthesis of Mendelian genetics, systematics, and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept.
An evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) is a strategy which, if adopted by a population in a given environment, is impenetrable, meaning that it cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that are initially rare. It is relevant in game theory, behavioural ecology, and evolutionary psychology. An ESS is an equilibrium refinement of the Nash equilibrium. It is a Nash equilibrium that is "evolutionarily" stable: once it is fixed in a population, natural selection alone is sufficient to prevent alternative (mutant) strategies from invading successfully. The theory is not intended to deal with the possibility of gross external changes to the environment that bring new selective forces to bear.
Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the heritable traits characteristic of a population over generations. Charles Darwin popularised the term "natural selection", contrasting it with artificial selection, which in his view is intentional, whereas natural selection is not.
John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, nicknamed "Jack" or "JBS", was a British-Indian scientist known for his work in the study of physiology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and mathematics. He made innovative contributions to the fields of statistics and biostatistics.
The modern synthesis was the early 20th-century synthesis reconciling Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and Gregor Mendel's ideas on heredity in a joint mathematical framework. Julian Huxley coined the term in his 1942 book, Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.
William Donald Hamilton, FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, widely recognised as one of the most significant evolutionary theorists of the 20th century.
George Christopher Williams was an American evolutionary biologist.
Eörs Szathmáry is a Hungarian theoretical evolutionary biologist at the now-defunct Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study and at the Department of Plant Taxonomy and Ecology of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. He is the co-author with John Maynard Smith of The Major Transitions in Evolution, a seminal work which continues to contribute to ongoing issues in evolutionary biology. He is a member of the Batthyány Society of Professors.
Motoo Kimura was a Japanese biologist best known for introducing the neutral theory of molecular evolution in 1968. He became one of the most influential theoretical population geneticists. He is remembered in genetics for his innovative use of diffusion equations to calculate the probability of fixation of beneficial, deleterious, or neutral alleles. Combining theoretical population genetics with molecular evolution data, he also developed the neutral theory of molecular evolution in which genetic drift is the main force changing allele frequencies. James F. Crow, himself a renowned population geneticist, considered Kimura to be one of the two greatest evolutionary geneticists, along with Gustave Malécot, after the great trio of the modern synthesis, Ronald Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane and Sewall Wright.
The Major Transitions in Evolution is a book written by John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry. At the time of its publication, Egbert Giles Leigh, Jr reviewing for Evolution commented that it "may be the most important book on evolution since [R.A.] Fisher's (1930) The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection".
The gene-centered view of evolution, gene's eye view, gene selection theory, or selfish gene theory holds that adaptive evolution occurs through the differential survival of competing genes, increasing the allele frequency of those alleles whose phenotypic trait effects successfully promote their own propagation, with gene defined as "not just one single physical bit of DNA [but] all replicas of a particular bit of DNA distributed throughout the world". The proponents of this viewpoint argue that, since heritable information is passed from generation to generation almost exclusively by DNA, natural selection and evolution are best considered from the perspective of genes.
Sewall Green Wright FRS(For) HFRSE was an American geneticist known for his influential work on evolutionary theory and also for his work on path analysis. He was a founder of population genetics alongside Ronald Fisher and J. B. S. Haldane, which was a major step in the development of the modern synthesis combining genetics with evolution. He discovered the inbreeding coefficient and methods of computing it in pedigree animals. He extended this work to populations, computing the amount of inbreeding between members of populations as a result of random genetic drift, and along with Fisher he pioneered methods for computing the distribution of gene frequencies among populations as a result of the interaction of natural selection, mutation, migration and genetic drift. Wright also made major contributions to mammalian and biochemical genetics.
Brian Charlesworth is a British evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, and editor of Biology Letters. Since 1997, he has been Royal Society Research Professor at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IEB) in Edinburgh. He has been married since 1967 to the British evolutionary biologist Deborah Charlesworth.
Sir Edward Bagnall Poulton, FRS HFRSE FLS was a British evolutionary biologist who was a lifelong advocate of natural selection through a period in which many scientists such as Reginald Punnett doubted its importance. He invented the term sympatric for evolution of species in the same place, and in his book The Colours of Animals (1890) was the first to recognise frequency-dependent selection.
Mosaic evolution is the concept, mainly from palaeontology, that evolutionary change takes place in some body parts or systems without simultaneous changes in other parts. Another definition is the "evolution of characters at various rates both within and between species".408 Its place in evolutionary theory comes under long-term trends or macroevolution.
Wen-Hsiung Li is a Taiwanese-American scientist working in the fields of molecular evolution, population genetics, and genomics. He is currently the James Watson Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a Principal Investigator at the Institute of Information Science and Genomics Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.
H. Allen Orr is the Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester.
"Precambrian rabbits" or "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian" are reported to have been among responses given by the biologist J.B.S. Haldane when asked what evidence could destroy his confidence in the theory of evolution and the field of study. The answers became popular imagery in debates about evolution and the scientific field of evolutionary biology in the 1990s. Many of Haldane's statements about his scientific research were popularized in his lifetime.
Montgomery Wilson Slatkin is an American biologist, and professor at University of California, Berkeley.
Megaevolution describes the most dramatic events in evolution. It is no longer suggested that the evolutionary processes involved are necessarily special, although in some cases they might be. Whereas macroevolution can apply to relatively modest changes that produced diversification of species and genera and are readily compared to microevolution, "megaevolution" is used for great changes. Megaevolution has been extensively debated because it has been seen as a possible objection to Charles Darwin's theory of gradual evolution by natural selection.
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