Nature's Oracle: The Life and Work of W. D..Hamilton

ISBN : 9780198607274

Ullica Segerstrale
464 Pages
162 x 241 mm
Pub date
Feb 2013
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W.D.Hamilton (1936-2000) was responsible for a revolution in thinking about evolutionary biology - a revolution that changed our understanding of life itself. He played a central role in the realization that what matters in evolution is not the survival of the individual but of the survival of its genes. This provided the solution to the long standing problem of animal altruism that vexed even Darwin himself, and in due course resulted in terms like selfish genes, kin selection, and sociobiology becoming familiar to a wider public. Hamilton went on to solve many more major problems, and open up ever new fields - he shaped much of our current understanding of central problems including the evolution of sexual reproduction and ageing. He became world famous and garnered international prizes. But this is all in hindsight. In fact, Hamilton's recognition came late - his career is a classic case of misunderstood genius. In this illuminating and moving biography Ullica Segerstrale documents Hamilton's extraordinary life and work, revealing a man of immense intellectual curiosity, an uncompromising truth-seeker, a naturalist and jungle explorer, a risk-taker, an unconventional scientist with a poet's soul and a deep concern for life on earth and mankind's future.


1. Growing up at Oaklea
2. Finding Life's Pattern
3. Schoolboy at Tonbridge
4. Fisher Found and Lost
5. The Struggle for Altruism
6. Altruism through the Looking Glass
7. Brazilian Break
8. Sex and Death
9. Challenges of Social Life
10. The Price Effect
11. Creativity in a Tight Spot
12. Priority Matters
13. When Leaving is Better than Staying
14. Encounters with Sociobiology
15. The Parasite Paradigm
16. Cooperation without Kinship
17. The Oxford Move
18. Defending the Queen
19. In Tune With Nature
20. Truth at any Price
21. Creative Strategies
22. Through a Glass Darkly
23. The Final Defiance
24. The Edge of Creativity

About the author: 

Ullica Segerstrale is Professor of Sociology at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and director of its Camras Scholars Program. She holds a PhD in sociology from Harvard, a MA in communication from the University of Pennsylvania, and MS degrees in both organic chemistry and sociology from the University of Helsinki. She has held Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, and been supported by the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, among others. She is a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Segerstrale has written and lectured widely internationally on science and values, the ethics of research, and the debates about what it means to be human. Her books include Defenders of the Truth: The battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond, and Beyond the Science Wars: The missing discourse about science and society.

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