Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Nature's Oracle"

New from Oxford University Press: Nature's Oracle: A Life of W. D. Hamilton by Ullica Segerstrale.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hailed by Richard Dawkins as "the most distinguished Darwinian since Darwin," W. D. Hamilton was one of the truly innovative scientists of the 20th century, responsible for a sea change in our thinking about evolution--and in our understanding of life itself.

In this illuminating and moving biography, Ullica Segerstrale captures Hamilton's extraordinary life and work, revealing a man of immense intellectual curiosity, an uncompromising truth-seeker, a naturalist and jungle explorer. Segerstrale's detailed research reveals the internal tensions and conflicts behind Hamilton's creative genius, and the narrative is peppered with personal anecdotes of this eccentric yet brilliant scientist. The book shows how Hamilton throughout his life was a man against the grain, whose iconoclastic views challenged the scientific and medical establishment--and even caused controversy at the Vatican. In fact, Hamilton was so against the grain that his early career was a classic case of misunderstood genius, whose work was invariably attacked upon publication and only later proclaimed a major breakthrough. Among his insights was that what matters in evolution is not the survival of the individual but of the survival of its genes, an idea that solved the longstanding problem of animal altruism that vexed even Darwin himself. He also proposed the well-known Red Queen theory of the evolution of sex and he helped open up many new fields (including sociobiology), shaping much of our current understanding of evolution.

Here then is an informed and engaging biography of one of the most influential scientists of our time, an unconventional thinker with a poet's soul and a deep concern for life on earth and mankind's future.