a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


The wrong Patterson


Disagreement between geneticists and naturalists
Ernst Mayr Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

We had a big conference in Princeton, organized by this… again National Research Council committee, and I insisted that they had also an ecologist there, so David Lack from England was invited and participated, and everybody at the meeting agreed with everybody. There were… seemingly were no disagreements anymore. In fact some people wrote to me and said… there are no more disagreements, but to the outside world that's in… indeed the way it looked, but in subsequent years it turned out there was one basic disagreement still there, between the geneticists on one hand and the naturalists on the other hand. For the geneticists the gene was the important thing, and they claimed that the gene was really the object of selection, the target of selection, while the naturalists said no, there's no gene that is ever running around free and can be selected, it's the individual as a whole that's the target of selection. And the geneticists stuck to this gene emphasis until the 1970s, and it disappeared only around 1980. There may be still a few around who… but that was the most conspicuous difference that still existed after the evolutionary synthesis.

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: Princeton University, United States National Research Council, England, 1980, 1970s, David Lack

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008