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George C Williams (1926-2010) Obituary link added.

George C Williams (1926-2010) emeritus professor of biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, died on September 8th, aged 84. He was one of the great evolutionary thinkers of my lifetime. His most famous book, Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966) had a seminal influence on generations of research biologists, destroying once and for all the myth of 'group selection', and putting the study of adaptation on a sound, critical footing. Along with W D Hamilton, John Maynard Smith and Robert Trivers, George Williams was one of the four dominant influences on The Selfish Gene. He made major contributions to the evolutionary theory of sex (Sex and Evolution, 1975), and of ageing. His 1992 book, Natural Selection: Domains, Levels and Challenges was in some respects an updating of his 1966 classic. In it, he introduced the idea of Clade Selection. Later in life, he teamed up with Randolph Nesse to found the important science of Darwinian Medicine. Their 1994 book, called Why we get Sick in America and Evolution and Healing in Britain (both terrible titles, as Nesse and Williams agreed) moved me to write on the dust jacket, "Buy two copies and give one to your doctor." Universally respected, George was a tall, shy, diffident scholar, rather like W D Hamilton in character, his legendary wisdom seeming somehow enhanced by a physical resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. A wonderful scientist and a great gentleman, sadly missed.

Note Added: Michael Ruse has written a lovely obituary here.

Richard Dawkins

TAGGED: ANNOUNCEMENTS, BIOLOGY, EVOLUTION


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