Cover: The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, from Harvard University PressCover: The Evolutionary Synthesis in E-DITION

The Evolutionary Synthesis

Perspectives on the Unification of Biology

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E-DITION

$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674865389

Publication Date: 12/17/1980

487 pages

World

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Biology was forged into a single, coherent science only within living memory. In this volume, the men responsible for the “modern synthesis” of evolutionary biology and genetics come together to analyze that remarkable event. Joined by other scientists and historians, Ernest Boesiger, C. D. Darlington, Theodosius Dobzhansky, E. B. Ford, Viktor Hamburger, M. Lerner, Ernst Mayr, Ledyard Stebbins, and Alexander Weinstein met twice to discuss the experiences, historical forces, and intellectual transformations through which the legacies of Darwin and Mendel were fused into a new biology. Their contributions, assembled here along with information supplied by such other architects of the synthesis as Julian Huxley, Bernhard Rensch, and G. G. Simpson, are indispensable to any historical study of biology in the twentieth century.

In retrospect, the evolutionary synthesis seems to have been delayed beyond the time when it could have been achieved. Darwin had published in 1859 and Mendel’s laws were rediscovered at the beginning of this century; in the next twenty years some scientists grasped the outlines of a possible synthesis. Yet violent controversy persisted until the mid-thirties. Then, by 1947, dispute gave way to remarkable unanimity. The contributors to this book focus on the barriers of nationality and discipline that impeded the integration of available knowledge and theory into a working whole, as well as on the process by which these barriers were penetrated.

The generation of scientists that inherited the synthesis were represented at the conference by Hampton Carson, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Lewontin. They and a distinguished group of historians of science contributed chapters to this volume that enlarge its theoretical perspective and also offer new information on the emergence, and delay, of the synthesis.

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Books influence us in untold ways, and the ones that influence us the most are often read in childhood. Harvard University Press Senior Editor Julia Kirby is reminded of this on the anniversary of the birth of one of this country’s most celebrated economists. This month would have brought Thomas Schelling’s one-hundredth birthday—and he got closer to seeing it than many mortals. The Nobel laureate economist died just five years ago, after a brilliant career as both a scholar and an advisor to US foreign policy strategists. What better day to dip into his classic work