Richard C. Lewontin

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Richard C. Lewontin "is an evolutionary geneticist, philosopher of science, and social critic. He is best known among biologists for his role in the development of molecular population genetics in the 1960s and 1970s, especially the use of electrophoresis to study the evolutionary implications of enzyme polymorphisms. The two 1966 papers that he co-authored with J.L. Hubby on this topic are considered to be classics in the field. His 1972 article on "The Apportionment of Human Diversity," in which he argues that genetic variation is greater within "races" than between them, is considered a landmark paper in human genetics and is still frequently cited. Further, his classic 1974 work, The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, is still required reading both aspiring population geneticists and philosophers of evolutionary biology.

"Lewontin received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1951 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1954, where he was a student of Theodosius Dobzhansky. After professorships at North Carolina State University, University of Rochester and University of Chicago (where he served as Chairman of the Program in Evolutionary Biology from 1968-1973), Lewontin moved to Harvard University in 1973, where he has been ever since. He is currently Alexander Agassiz Research Professor there.

"Lewontin's reputation, however, is not based simply on his many scientific and academic accomplishments. Over the past 30 years, he has turned his critical gaze toward the ways that biology is done and the place of science in society. In numerous books and articles, including Biology as Ideology, Not in Our Genes, and The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment, he has challenged molecular biologists and geneticists to think about the living world more holistically than is currently fashionable. Lewontin is well-known for his scathing critiques of the rhetoric used by scientists to gain public support and funding for the Human Genome Project. Additionally, he has been concerned for many years with questions about the genetic and non-genetic variables that influence behavioral traits like intelligence and temperament." [1]

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  1. Profiles-Richard Lewontin, accessed September 22, 2008.
  2. Santa Fe Institute Science Board, organizational web page, accessed April 14, 2012.