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The importance of gene flow


Shortening the book
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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It was big book, I forget now the number of pages, something like 700 or 800 or so, and everybody said, well, couldn't you shorten it a little bit? And I looked at it and I saw that for every phenomenon, for every… as evidence for everything that I claimed I always gave five or six or 10 examples as evidence. And I saw that, yes indeed, I could shorten it very considerably, and so I brought out an edition which was also very readable because I got not a science editor in Harvard  to helped me with the volume, this abridgement, but the English language editor. And I said to her, ‘Any sentence you don't understand, any paragraph you don't understand, tell me and then I will see whether I can make it more easily explicable’, except in a few cases where she simply didn't know the Mendelian Laws or something like that. So it was a very readable volume, came out as Populations, Species, and Evolution. However, I had over-emphasized the fact that it was abridged because at the same time I revised a great many chapters and, in… in a few cases, it was quite a drastic revision.

The late German-American biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) was a leading light in the field of evolutionary biology, gaining a PhD at the age of 21. He was also a tropical explorer and ornithologist who undertook an expedition to New Guinea and collected several thousand bird skins. In 1931 he accepted a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History. During his time at the museum, aged 37, he published his seminal work 'Systematics and Origin of the Species' which integrated the theories of Darwin and Mendel and is considered one of his greatest works.

Listeners: Walter J. Bock

Walter J. Bock is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Columbia University. He received his B.Sc. from Cornell and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. His research lies in the areas of organismal and evolutionary biology, with a special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeleto-muscular system, specifically the feeding apparatus of birds.

Tags: Harvard University, Populations, Species, and Evolution

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008