J. B. S. Haldane and population Genetics

J. B. S. Haldane

J. B. S. Haldane

On November 5, 1892, English geneticist and biometrician John Burdon Sanderson Haldane was born. Haldane is known for his work in the study of physiology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and in mathematics, where he made innovative contributions to the fields of statistics and biostatistics.

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane began working with hos father in the home laboratory. There, he performed first experiments, mostly on himself. At New College at the University of Oxford, Heldane studied mathematics and classics. Around the age of 20, Haldane and his father published their first scientific paper together. In 1912 he presented his work on gene linkage in vertebrates.

During World War I, Haldane fought in the British Army, serving in France, Iraq. Between 1919 and 1922, Haldane was a Fellow of New College, Oxford, where he researched physiology and genetics. In Cambridge he read biochemistry and Haldane became Head of Genetical Research at the John Innes Horticultural Institution. In that period, he worked on enzymes and genetics, especially the mathematical side of genetics. During the 1930s, Haldane was appointed full Professor of Genetics at University College London and first Weldon Professor of Biometry.

Haldane joined the Indian Statistical Institute in 1956 and headed its biometry unit. During his time in India, Haldane’s research went into many directions. He studied the yellow-wattled Lapwing and became interedted in the pollination of Lantana camara. Haldane further studied floral symmetry. In 1961, he resigned and moved to a newly established biometry unit in Odisha. J. B. S. Haldane became an Indian citizen. His interest in Hinduism grew and he became a vegetarian. Haldane described India in 1961 as “the closest approximation to the Free World.”

J. B. S. Haldane became next to Ronald Fisher and Sewall Wright one of the scientists developing the mathematical theory of population genetics. Haldane played an important role in the modern evolutionary synthesis, which is popularly called neo-Darwinism, as in Richard Dawkins‘ 1976 work titled The Selfish Gene. Haldane was able to re-established natural selection as the premier mechanism of evolution by explaining it in terms of the mathematical consequences of Mendelian inheritance. One of his most important publications in the area was the book The Causes of Evolution. In it, he summarized his results on the interaction of natural selection with mutation and animal migration and on gene frequencies.

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