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Hamilton, William (Donald)

africa survival parasites concepts

(1936–2000) British evolutionary biologist.

As a student at Cambridge, Hamilton first read work on genetics and evolution: his development of these concepts occupied his subsequent career, spent in London, Brazil, Michigan and (from 1984) in Oxford. His early work from 1964 focused on insect societies. He was concerned particularly with the way individuals can altruistically aid survival and breeding of relatives thereby aiding survival of shared genes, even if the individual is sterile (as in honey bees). His ideas, expressed in his concepts of ‘kin selection’ and ‘inclusive fitness’, were controversial, but were later mainly accepted with the growth of sociobiology. He also worked on unusual sex ratios, found in both plants and animals. He went on to study the effect of parasites in sexual selection, showing that choice of a mate can be affected by parasites. He was a supporter of Gaia concept.

The last of his contests with conventional views led indirectly to his death. The debate on whether vaccination trials in Africa using chimpanzees had led to the HIV virus interested him, but while in Africa doing field work on this he contracted a virulent malaria which killed him after his return to the UK.

Hampton, Henry (1940–1998) [next] [back] Hamilton, Thomas(1823–1865) - Journalist, activist, Chronology

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