W. D. Hamilton

W. D. Hamilton was one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century. His work shaped the study of animal behavior, beginning in the 1960's. His first key contribution, published in 1964, was a theory of social evolution which drew a strong connection between kinship and decisions animals make in their social lives. This theory, which came to be called kin selection, is a driving force in our understanding of animal behavior. Later work touched on the evolution of sex ratios (1967), the selfish herd (1971), dispersal (Hamilton and May, 1977), cooperation (Axelrod and Hamilton 1981), mating systems (Hamilton and Zuk, 1982) and the evolution of sex (Hamilton et al. 1990). Each of these contributions has had an extraordinary influence on scientific thought.

Hamilton ranks with the Nobel Prize-winning trio of Tinbergen, von Frisch, and Lorenz in his level of influence on the study of behavior. At the time of his death in 1999 he was studying the origin of HIV in Africa. The influence of W. D. Hamilton's theories about animal behavior has withstood the test of time; animal behaviorists in the 21st century continue to look to his publications as sources of ideas and as the basis for interpreting behavior.

Axelrod R., Hamilton W. D. 1981 The evolution of cooperation. Science 211: (4489) 1390-1396
Hamilton W. D. 1964 The evolution of social behavior I. J Theor Biol 7:1-16
Hamilton W. D. 1964 The evolution of social behavior II. J Theor Biol 7:17-52.
Hamilton W. D. 1967. Extraordinary sex ratios. Science 156:477-488.
Hamilton W. D. 1971. Geometry for the selfish herd. J. Theor. Biol. 31:295-311.
Hamilton W. D., May R. M. 1977 Dispersal in stable habitats. Nature 269: 578-581
Hamilton W. D. and Zuk, M. 1982. Heritable true fitness and bright birds: a role for parasites? Science 218:384-387.
Hamilton W. D., Axelrod R., Tanese R. 1990 Sexual reproduction as an adaptation to resist parasites (a review). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 87: (9) 3566-3573

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