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Sewall wright and evolutionary biology. By William B. Provine. xvi and 545 pp. Chicago University of Chicago Press. 1989 $18.95 (paper)

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Sicher originally wanted the text to “prove
that anatomical understanding does not only
facilitate clinical work but that it also allows
for the substitution of a rigid clinical technique by an adaptable and therefore potentially progressive action.” On that basis, the
book has earned its place as a standard
reference for oral anatomy. It should be mandatory reading for graduate students in the
field. Its clinical orientation provides an attractive perspective for the human biologist.
I recommend the book to anyone seriously
interested in craniofacial biology.
Department of Orthodontics
Buylor College of Dentistry
Dallas. Texas
Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology. By
William 6.Provine. xvi and 545 pp. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press. 1989, $18.95
This is the paperback edition of a highly
acclaimed volume written by William Provine about the eminent geneticist, Sewall
Wright. The hardback edition was originally
published in 1986 by the University of Chicago Press. This volume contributes to the
intellectual history of one member of a triumvirate of gifted theoreticians who built
the foundations of po ulation genetics. They
are R.A. Fisher, J.B. . Haldane, and Sewall
Wright. The field of population genetics was
indeed fortunate to have attracted these
three brilliant minds to contemporaneously
work on its theoretical underpinnings. What
makes this biography so important is that
Sewall Wright’s life (99 years) spanned almost the entire history of genetics and is
intertwined with major contributors t o the
field such as Dobzhansky, Castle, Sturtevant, and Morgan.
Provine based this biography on numerous
interviews, 120 hours recorded, and meticulous documentation. Sewall Wright provided
Provine with approximately 15,000 pages of
scientific correspondence, written after
1915,with two-thirds of these letters written
by Sewall Wright. This correspondence documents not only the development of Wright’s
scientific ideas but reveals his invaluable
intellectual service to other scientists. He
provided long and detailed responses on var-
ious questions and comments on quantitative genetics and population genetics theory.
What separates Provine’s work from most
of the other intellectual biographies is that
this volume is a form of collaboration between Wright and his biographer. Provine
interacted with and studied Wri ht’s research for a large number ofyears. Eoncepts,
ideas, and formulations were discussed and
ambiguities were resolved. Thus this book
faithfully re resents and interprets Wright’s
brilliant an often complex writings.
This volume is subdivided into 13 chapters
lus a useful listing of all 211publications by
ewall Wright during his 75-year career.
These 13 chapters form a melange of
Wright’s educational experiences, intellectual development, anecdotes, and in-depth
discussions of his scholarly contributions to
genetics. From chapter 1,I learned that after
Wright had developed the methods for the
computation of inbreeding in sexually breeding organisms, he calculated his own inbreeding coefficient, which was 6.3% or
about 100 times the average. Chapter 5 offers a succinct yet clear exposition on
Wright’s formulation of path coefficients and
their applications to animal breeding. In this
chapter, Provine also reviews Wright’s work
on the theor of inbreeding through the
method of pat coefficients. Prior to Wright’s
approach, all of the quantitative analyses of
inbreeding were built on the examination of
genotypic frequencies and their recurrent
changes by generation. Such an approach
had limited utility past the first few generations because of the observed complexity.
Chapter 8 reviews the bases of the controversies between Wright and R.A. Fisher and
shows the impact of this fundamental disagreement on the population genetics of
natural populations. Wright’s breeding research led him to conclude that the assumption of large random mating populations,
incorporated in models of natural selection
advocated by Fisher, is unwarranted. It is
this disagreement between Fisher and
Wright that eventually led to a shift from
selection exerting complete and direct control of evolution to the recognition of the
importance of population subdivision and
genetic drift in evolutionary processes. This
volume ends with a description of “The Madison Years,”those years spent at the University of Wisconsin after his retirement from
Chicago. Wright’s influence on modern evolutionary biology was crowned by his four
volume treatise, which summarized his
thoughts and contributions to evolutionary
As Provine so aptly points out, Sewall
Wright’s contributions to evolutionary theory were numerous. These included path
coefficients and path analyses, the development of F-statistics in subdivided opulations, his isolation by distance mo el, and
the development of genetic drift. His debates
with Fisher influenced both mathematical
and population genetics and led to field research, in order to correct some of the early
assumptions about panmixis of large human
populations. It is Wright’s writings that
stimulated much of the research in population structure. Thus the roots of anthropological genetics can be traced to Sewall
Wright and he should be viewed as one of the
founders of our discipline.
This volume rovides one of the best intellectual biograp ies that I have ever read. It
sets a new standard for future works of this
sort. I strongly recommend this book to all
human biologists, not just those who are
interested in population genetics but those
fascinated by the history of ideas.
Department of Anthropology
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
Brief Re views
Anthropometric Standards for the Assessment of Growth and Nutritional Status. By
A.R. Frisancho. 189 pp. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1990, $59.50 (cloth).
mated arm muscle and fat areas, arm muscle
area by stature, percent fat area (labeled the
arm fat index), and estimated relative fatness based on the two skinfolds in adults.
The tabular data are also resented in
graphic form illustratin the 5tYl,15th, 50th,
85th, and 95th centiles. eparate appendices
provide corresponding tabular data for
American blacks and American whites. This
is a valuable compilation of data from the
NHANES surveys, which should find widespread application in human biology research.
Western Civilization in Biological Perspective:
Patterns in Biohistory. By Stephen Boyden.
xi + 370 pp. Oxford: Oxford University
Press. 1989, $29.95 (paper).
The paperback edition of the book first
published in 1987 is a welcomed addition to
the human biology literature. The author
incorporates a biological perspective into the
study of relatively recent human history.
After briefly discussing human evolution,
the concept of adaptation, and human needs,
the author considers several stages in recent
human history: the “primeval”(hunter-gatherer) phase, early agriculturalists, early urban dwellers, and the high energy phase,
which began with the industrial revolution
in the eighteenth century. About one-half of
the volume is devoted to the high energy
phase and includes several aspects: the transition into it, interrelationships between society and the biosphere during this phase,
developments in society at this time, and
impacts on the population. The latter discussion includes patterns of health and disease,
genetic structure of populations, material
living conditions, and psychosocial and behavioral conditions of life in the high energy
phase. Overall, this is a stimulating volume
that would serve as a valuable adjunct in
courses dealing with human variability a n d
or human adaptability.
Using data from the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES1
and a), the author provides reference data
for the U S . population, children, adolescents, and adults, 1.0 through 74.9 years of
age. Extensive tabular data include sample EnvironmentalConsequences of Nuclear War.
Volume 11. Ecological and Agricultural Efsizes, means, standards deviations, and the
fects (2nd edition). By M.A. Harwell and
5th, loth, 15th, 25th, 50th, 75th, 85th, 90th,
T.C. Hutchinson with W.P. Cropper, C.C.
and 95th centiles for the following dimenHarwell, and H.D. Grover. lxiii + 523 pp.
sions, derived measurements, and indices:
weight, stature, body mass index, weight by
New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1989, $44.95
stature, weight by frame size, sitting height,
sitting heightlstature ratio, elbow and bitroThe second edition of the report of the
chanteric breadths, triceps and subscapular
skinfolds, the sum of the two skinfolds, esti- Scientific Committee on Problems of the En-
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paper, wright, 545, university, xvi, chicago, proving, sewall, william, evolutionary, 1989, biologya, pres
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