G. C. Williams RIP

G. C. Williams (never known as “George”), one of the last generation’s most famous evolutionists, died on Wednesday.  He was best known for his work on sex ratios and inclusive fitness, and above all for his book Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966), which, along with Dawkins’s Selfish Gene, was enormously influential in promoting the gene-centered view of evolution among my generation of biologists.

Michael Ruse wrote a nice obituary in The Chronicle of Higher Education. and, over at Edge, John Brockman offers his own reminiscences about Williams, an excerpt from Williams’s writing, and some older tributes to the man by various scientific luminaries.

George C. Williams (1926-2010)

7 Comments

  1. Dominic
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    That is sad – I read & enjoyed his book Plan and Purpose in Nature.

  2. Posted September 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    In addition to being one of the seminal evolutionary biologists of the twentieth century, he was also an excellent volley ball player.

  3. William Stewart
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Not exactly a comment on this post. I am a psychologist who is greatly interested in biological evolution. I would be interested in Professor Coyne’s reaction to the work of Michael Lynch who, if I understand him, argues that (if I am quoting him accurately)”natural selection is a caricature of evolution.”
    The introductory psychology book that I teach from defines evolution as basically a change in gene frequecies. Is this a caricature? I realize that Professor Coyne has other things to do besides educating psychologists.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Mike is a smart guy, and I wouldn’t want to react to that one sentence alone. If you provide a link to where he said it, I’ll try to oblige.

  4. Posted September 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    All my days won’t be dances of delight when I’m gone
    And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I’m gone
    Can’t add my name into the fight while I’m gone
    So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

  5. Peter Pitsiokos
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I am one of George’s sons-in-law. To your comment that he was “…(never known as “George”)…” George was known to me as “George”. George was also known to his wife Doris as “George”.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      Sorry–I meant “known to evolutionists“. In my career I never heard him called anything other than “G. C. Williams”. (And, of course, I may not have known some scientists who called him “George.”)


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Jerry Coyne notes that George C. Williams died a few days ago. I’d heard he was ill. Michael Ruse has an obituary up. Williams’ book Adaptation and Natural Selection prefigured Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. […]

  2. […] Jerry Coyne notes that George C. Williams died a few days ago. I’d heard he was ill. Michael Ruse has an obituary up. Williams’ book Adaptation and Natural Selection prefigured Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. […]

  3. […] George Williams has died: Reflections and an interview and George C Williams (1926-2010) Obituary and George C. Williams (1926-2010) and We’ve lost one of the greats: George C. Williams and GEORGE C. WILLIAMS (1926-2010) and G. C. Williams RIP. […]

  4. […] Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne […]

  5. […] one talk on Darwinian medicine, by Randoph Nesse at the University of Michigan. Nesse, along with the late George Williams, has published extensively on Darwinian medicine and, in fact, is largely responsible for founding […]

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