Guide Natures Oracle: The Life and Work of W.D.Hamilton

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Creative Strategies Through a Glass Darkly The Final Defiance She has held Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, and been supported by the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, among others. Segerstrale has written and lectured widely internationally on science and values, the ethics of research, and the debates about what it means to be human. Her books include Defenders of the Truth: The battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond , and Beyond the Science Wars: The missing discourse about science and society. Historians interested in this topic, or in Bill Hamiltons ideas, will find in the book a useful springboard for further research.

Nature's Oracle is a biography truly worthy of a scientist of Hamiltons stature and it will be an invaluable source of insight for anyone interested in the life and science of one of the giants of twentieth-century biology. Arvid Agren, Journal of Genetics "William Hamilton's name stands above all others in evolutionary biology since the Modern Synthesis of the s and '40s. As John Maynard Smith, with whom he had a troubled relationship, said, "He's the only bloody genius we've got.

Ullica Segerstrale is ideally qualified to rise to that challenge. She achieves a genuinely affectionate yet warts-and-all portrait of her subject, combined with a good understanding of the deep subtleties of his thinking.

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Those who loved him, as I did, and those who wish to know more of the astonishing originality and versatility of his contributions to science, will treasure this book. Segerstrale beautifully interweaves Hamilton's epic work with the details of his life.

Trivers "Bill Hamilton's remarkable story has now been told: a truly great naturalist, who thought his way to the very heart of evolution by natural selection, completing and expanding the insights of Darwin as he discovered the disorienting and enlightening perspective of the gene itself. And despite his pioneering use of computer programming and mathematics, he was no arid theorist: he relished delving under bark in Wytham Woods or in the Amazon, ranged freely in his thought from wasps and horned beetles to ragwort and human beings, and was not so much an anthropomorphic as a poetic thinker, convinced that all living things were connected.

Human subjects could be equally touchy. He decided that the hostile reviewers of his ground-breaking paper on sexual reproduction viewed as a stratagem that helped genes to recombine, thwarting the adaptive efforts of would-be parasites were offended by the unromantic light it threw on their own sex lives.

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Opposed to political correctness and, even as an undergraduate at Cambridge, only willing to study what interested him, Hamilton did not fit naturally into university hierarchies. He was promoted slowly in the UK and left for the United States. Farewell, my friends. The Bible was in there, but so was his wide reading of European literature and his unusual ability to reflect with humour on his own mistakes and his own passions, so that The Narrow Roads is, for my money, one of the most revealing and fascinating memoirs ever written. Here, I thought, is a great mind and a great writer.

Nature's Oracle : The Life and Work of W. D. Hamilton -

Last year I published a short story about him. One blind spot is the beauty of W. Hamilton died aged 63, in , of an internal haemorrhage, after returning exhausted from a trip to the Congo to collect chimpanzee faeces. This was a gallant attempt to get a fair hearing in the scientific journals for an unpopular idea not his own about HIV: could it have originated through a species-jump from polio vaccine cultivated on infected chimps?

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Nor did he let his own successful gene-based theory set boundaries on his thinking. Newsletter Google 4. Help pages. Prothero Michael J. Benton Richard Fortey View All. Go to British Wildlife. It can be explained as the increase in the chance of an organism's genetic alleles to be passed to the next generations by harming those that are less closely related than relationship by chance.

Spite, however, is unlikely ever to be elaborated into any complex forms of adaptation. Targets of aggression are likely to act in revenge, and the majority of pairs of individuals assuming a panmictic species exhibit a roughly average level of genetic relatedness, making the selection of targets of spite problematic.

Between and Hamilton was a lecturer at Imperial College London. Fisher had proposed a model as to why "ordinary" sex ratios were nearly always but see Edwards , and likewise extraordinary sex ratios, particularly in wasps, needed explanations. Hamilton had been introduced to the idea and formulated its solution in when he had been assigned to help Fisher's pupil A. Edwards test the Fisherian sex ratio hypothesis. Hamilton combined his extensive knowledge of natural history with deep insight into the problem, opening up a whole new area of research.

The paper was also notable for introducing the concept of the "unbeatable strategy", which John Maynard Smith and George R. Price were to develop into the evolutionarily stable strategy ESS , a concept in game theory not limited to evolutionary biology. Price had originally come to Hamilton after deriving the Price equation , and thus rederiving Hamilton's rule. Maynard Smith later peer reviewed one of Price's papers, and drew inspiration from it. The paper was not published but Maynard Smith offered to make Price a co-author of his ESS paper, which helped to improve relations between the men.

Price committed suicide in , and Hamilton and Maynard Smith were among the few present at the funeral. Hamilton was regarded as a poor lecturer. This shortcoming would not affect the popularity of his work, however, as it was popularised by Richard Dawkins in Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene. His arrival sparked protests and sit-ins from students who did not like his association with sociobiology. Hamilton was an early proponent of the Red Queen theory of the evolution of sex [6] separate from the other theory of the same name previously proposed by Leigh Van Valen.

This was named for a character in Lewis Carroll 's Through the Looking-Glass , who is continuously running but never actually travels any distance:. This theory hypothesizes that sex evolved because new and unfamiliar combinations of genes could be presented to parasites , preventing the parasite from preying on that organism: species with sex were able to continuously "run away" from their parasites. Likewise, parasites were able to evolve mechanisms to get around the organism's new set of genes, thus perpetuating an endless race. In , he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society , and in , he was invited by Richard Southwood to be the Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Zoology at Oxford , and a fellow of New College , where he remained until his death.

From , Hamilton found companionship with Maria Luisa Bozzi, an Italian science journalist and author.

Nature's Oracle: The Life and Work of W.D. Hamilton

His collected papers, entitled Narrow Roads of Gene Land , began to be published in The first volume was entitled Evolution of Social Behaviour. The field of social evolution , of which Hamilton's Rule has central importance, is broadly defined as being the study of the evolution of social behaviours, i.

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Social behaviours can be categorized according to the fitness consequences they entail for the actor and recipient. A behaviour that increases the direct fitness of the actor is mutually beneficial if the recipient also benefits, and selfish if the recipient suffers a loss. A behaviour that reduces the fitness of the actor is altruistic if the recipient benefits, and spiteful if the recipient suffers a loss.

This classification was first proposed by Hamilton in Hamilton also proposed the coevolution theory of autumn leaf color as an example of evolutionary signalling theory. During the s, Hamilton became increasingly interested in the controversial argument that the origin of HIV lay in oral polio vaccines trials conducted by Hilary Koprowski in Africa during the s. Letters by Hamilton on the topic to the major peer-reviewed journals were rejected.

To look for indirect evidence of the OPV hypothesis by assessing natural levels of simian immunodeficiency virus , in primates, in early , Hamilton and two others ventured on a field trip to the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. He returned to London from Africa on 29 January He was transferred to Middlesex Hospital on 5 February and died there on 7 March An inquest was held on 10 May at Westminster Coroner's Court to inquire into rumours about the cause of his death. The coroner concluded that his death was due to "multi-organ failure due to upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage due to a duodenal diverticulum and arterial bleed through a mucosal ulcer ".

Following reports attributing his death to complications arising from malaria , the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit's investigation established that he had contracted malaria during his final African expedition. However, the pathologist had suggested the possibility that the ulceration and consequent haemorrhage had resulted from a pill which might have been taken because of malarial symptoms lodging in the diverticulum; but, even if this suggestion were correct, the link between malaria and the observed causes of death would be entirely indirect.

A secular memorial service he was an agnostic [9] was held at the chapel of New College, Oxford on 1 July , organised by Richard Dawkins. He was buried near Wytham Woods. He, however, had written an essay on My intended burial and why in which he wrote: [10]. Ullica Segerstrale. Hamilton was responsible for a revolution in thinking about evolutionary biology - a revolution that changed our understanding of life itself.

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He played a central role in the realization that what matters in evolution is not the survival of the individual but of the survival of its genes. This provided the solution to the long standing problem of animal altruism that vexed even Darwin himself, and in due course resulted in terms like selfish genes, kin selection, and sociobiology becoming familiar to a wider public. Hamilton went on to solve many more major problems, and open up ever new fields - he shaped much of our currentunderstanding of central problems including the evolution of sexual reproduction and ageing.