Category Archives: Books

Read about the man to understand his science.

I recently start to read about the life of one of the most brilliant evolutionary biologist of the 20th century: John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, aka J.B.S. Haldane. Born in England in 1892, he died in 1964 in India. He was one of the scientists, together with Sir Ronald Fischer and Sewal Wright, who laid the foundations for the establishment of the field of Population Genetics, and dramatically contributed to the modern synthesis of Darwinian evolution.

Even more remarkable about the man is that he not only was a great scientist, mathematician and literate, but he also had an incredible and exciting life. Now, this is something that you generally wouldn’t expect or grasp from scientists that in most cases are depicted in those austere, rather “boring-looking” black and white pictures of their early life and career. And yet, J.B.S. Haldane was far from being a boring person. For one thing, he participated in World War I and he was put in charge of training new soldiers in the use of explosives. He himself wrote that one of the practice he used to teach the anatomy of a hand-grenade was to let “each pupil attach a detonator to a fuse with his teeth.” And in 9 months of teaching no accidents were reported at the school. Since fighting a war and instructing other soldiers on the use of weapons wasn’t quite enough, he actually finished to write his first paper while fighting in the trenches.

Long story short, J.B.S. Haldane was an incredible man and an incredible scientist, and the more I learn about his life, the more I appreciate his achievements in science. If you want to know more about his life I recommend the book “J.B.S. Haldane – The Life and Work of J.B.S. Haldane” by Ronald Clark, Bloombsbury Reader.