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Unread September 14th, 2010, 02:12 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Arrow George Williams 5/12/1926-9/8/2010

See statements by Bob Trivers and others at http://edge.org/documents/archive/edge326.html

The below from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_C._Williams

Professor George Christopher Williams (May 12, 1926 – September 8, 2010) was an American evolutionary biologist.[1][2]

Williams was a professor emeritus of biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was best known for his vigorous critique of group selection. The work of Williams in this area, along with W. D. Hamilton, John Maynard Smith and others led to the development of a gene-centric view of evolution in the 1960s.

Williams' 1957 paper Pleiotropy, Natural Selection, and the Evolution of Senescence is one of the most influential in 20th century evolutionary biology, and contains at least 3 foundational ideas[3]. The central hypothesis of antagonistic pleiotropy remains the prevailing evolutionary explanation of senescence. In this paper Williams was also the first to propose that senescence should be generally synchronized by natural selection. According to this original formulation:

"if the adverse genic effects appeared earlier in one system than any other, they would be removed by selection from that system more readily than from any other. In other words, natural selection will always be in greatest opposition to the decline of the most senescence-prone system."

This important concept of synchrony of senescence was taken up a short time later by John Maynard Smith, and the origin of the idea is often misattributed to him, including in his obituary in Nature Magazine. This paper also contains the first basic outline of the so-called "grandmother hypothesis", which states that natural selection might select for menopause and post-reproductive life in females, although Williams does not explicitly mention grandchildren or the inclusive fitness contribution of grandparenting.

In his first book, Adaptation and Natural Selection, Williams argued that adaptation was an "onerous" concept that should only be invoked when necessary, and, that, when it is necessary, selection among genes or individuals would in general be the preferable explanation for it. He elaborated this view in later books and papers, which contributed to the development of a gene-centered view of evolution; Richard Dawkins built on Williams' ideas in this area in the book The Selfish Gene.

Williams is also well known for his work on the evolution of sex, which is also informed by his interest in the unit of selection. He is also an advocate of evolutionary medicine.

Williams received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1955. At Stony Brook he taught courses in marine vertebrate zoology, and he often uses ichthyological examples in his books.

He won the Crafoord Prize for Bioscience jointly with Ernst Mayr and John Maynard Smith in 1999. Dawkins describes Williams as "one of the most respected of American evolutionary biologists"
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