Blackwell Publishing

The rise of evolutionary biology - What was the impact of Mendel's theory of inheritance?


By the mid-1940s, the modern synthesis developed by Fisher, Haldane, and Wright had penetrated all areas of biology.

The 30 members of a 'committee on common problems of genetics, systematics, and paleontology' who met (with some other experts) at Princeton in 1947 represented all areas of biology. But they shared a common viewpoint, the viewpoint of Mendelism and neo-Darwinism. A similar unanimity of 30 leading figures in genetics, morphology, systematics, and paleontology would have been difficult to achieve before that date.

Of course, there remained controversy within the synthesis, and a counter-culture outside. In 1959, two eminent evolutionary biologists - the geneticist Muller and the paleontologist Simpson - could still both celebrate the centenary of The Origin of Species with essays bearing (almost) the same memorable title: “One hundred years without Darwinism are enough".

The image opposite is of Sewall Wright (1889 - 1988) photographed in 1928 at the University of Chicago.

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