Choosing Selection: The Revival of Natural Selection in Anglo-American Evolutionary Biology, 1930-1970 (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-3, ISBN: 9781606189931)

July 4, 2010 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

Choosing Selection: The Revival of Natural Selection in Anglo-American Evolutionary Biology, 1930-1970
(American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-3, ISBN: 9781606189931)
by Stephen G. Brush (Paperback, 183 pages, 2009, $35.00)

Choosing SelectionThis book describes the establishment of the hypothesis that Charles Darwin’s “natural selection,” reformulated by Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane, and S. Wright in the light of Mendelian genetics, is the primary or exclusive mechanism for biological evolution.

During the 1930s, alternatives such as Lamarchism, macromutations, and orthogenesis were rejected in favor of natural selection acting on small mutations, but there were disagreements about the role of random genetic drift in evolution.

By the 1950s, research by Theodosius “T.G.” Dobzhansky, E.B. Ford, and others persuaded leading evolutionists that natural selection was so powerful that drift was generally unimportant. This conclusion was accepted by most; however, a significant minority of biology textbooks and popular articles mentioned drift in the late 1960s.

“Brush (emeritus history of science, U. of Maryland-University Park) explains how and why British and American biologists, who had shared the skepticism of their continental colleagues about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, accepted a revised version of it mostly during the 1940s,” writes Book News in a review.

“The modern theory was a synthesis of such disciplines as genetics, zoology, botany, and paleontology, he says, that acknowledged natural selection as a necessary, and perhaps the most crucial, but probably not sufficient cause of evolutionary adaptation.

“Among his perspectives are mathematical and philosophical biologist Haldane weighs, in, Huxley proclaims a new synthesis, chromosome inversions in Drosophila, the changing views of Dobzhansky and Wright, and whether evolutionary theory is scientific.”

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The Most Important Clock in America: The David Rittenhouse Astronomical Musical Clock at Drexel University (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-2, ISBN: 1606189921) Magnetic Fever: Global Imperialism and Empiricism in the Nineteenth Century (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-4, ISBN: 9781606189948)

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