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Not fitting in at prep school or Eton


Developing a deeper interest in the living world
John Maynard Smith Scientist
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There are two... routes, which I think you'll find in most evolutionary biologists, not all of them. One is this route of a fascination in animals and plants. And I was even fascinated by plants, I collected plants and so on, picked them and tried to find out what they were. And the other is this sort of philosophical thing, hard to describe. I mean, I've always been interested in where did we come from, how did we get here, a kind of searching about origins. But I don't think these two threads of my life, the philosophical fascination in where did we come from and the natural history fascination in animals, really came together, I guess, until - actually, I exaggerate - I think it was probably I was 15 before those two threads came together and made me interested in evolution, in... in adaptation, in explanations about animals.

The late British biologist John Maynard Smith (1920-2004) is famous for applying game theory to the study of natural selection. At Eton College, inspired by the work of old Etonian JBS Haldane, Maynard Smith developed an interest in Darwinian evolutionary theory and mathematics. Then he entered University College London (UCL) to study fruit fly genetics under Haldane. In 1973 Maynard Smith formalised a central concept in game theory called the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). His ideas, presented in books such as 'Evolution and the Theory of Games', were enormously influential and led to a more rigorous scientific analysis and understanding of interactions between living things.

Listeners: Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins was educated at Oxford University and has taught zoology at the universities of California and Oxford. He is a fellow of New College, Oxford and the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Dawkins is one of the leading thinkers in modern evolutionary biology. He is also one of the best read and most popular writers on the subject: his books about evolution and science include "The Selfish Gene", "The Extended Phenotype", "The Blind Watchmaker", "River Out of Eden", "Climbing Mount Improbable", and most recently, "Unweaving the Rainbow".

Tags: evolutionary biologist, evolution, fauna, plants

Duration: 54 seconds

Date story recorded: April 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008