Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) was an experimental population geneticist and Soviet émigré to the US. In 1943, he visited Professor Andre Drefus in Sao Paolo as part of a US “good neighbour” programme. In this photograph, Dobzhansky (centre) and two unnamed Brazilian colleagues are trapping Drosophila fruit flies in nearby forest. Dobzhansky was key to the synthesis period.

The synthesis period in evolutionary studies (most people call this the “evolutionary synthesis” of the 1930s and 1940) has had a standard narrative for many years, but pressure is increasing for a revision. This book, Descended from Darwin, began as a conference at the American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia (22–23 October 2004). The goal of the conference was to investigate how scholarship might move forward.

Professor Joe Cain and Professor Michael Ruse (2009) Descended from Darwin. ISBN 9781606189917

Conference to revise stories about synthesis period

The main focus of the meeting was on before, during, and after the synthesis period in evolutionary studies (1930s-1940s) in America. This has been the focus of substantial new research and important new thinking. This volume brings together fifteen specialists to explore these developments and to press further. 

Questions shaping these essays focus on the following broad themes:

  • continuity and breaks across generations
  • emerging narratives for the period
  • new research opportunities at the APS
  • new ideas from the research front
  • placing evolutionists in the broader context of biology
  • future directions

In addition to fifteen original essays, this volume includes a thoughtful introduction by Michael Ruse.

The conference was made possible by the generous support of the Barra Foundation and given in honour of the late Professor Frederick H. Burkhardt.

Papers and book (open access)

Papers at the conference were assembled into a book, published by the American Philosophical Society:

Joe Cain and Michael Ruse, eds. 2009. Descended from Darwin: Insights into the History of Evolutionary Studies, 1900-1970. Edited by Joe Cain and Michael Ruse. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. ISBN: 978‐1‐60618‐991‐7. Ordering information.

Descended from Darwin chapters

pdf author contribution
preface Martin Levitt Preface
intro Michael Ruse Introduction
  Part 1 Continuity and Breaks Across Generations
01 Mark Largent The So-called ‘Eclipse of Darwinism’
02 Juan Ilerbaig ‘The View-Point of a Naturalist’:
American Field Zoologists and the Evolutionary Synthesis, 1900-1945
03 Andy Hammond JBS Haldane, Holism, and Synthesis in Evolution
  Part 2 Emerging Narratives and Broader Themes
04 Kim Kleinman Biosystematics and the Origin of Species:
Edgar Anderson, WH Camp and the Evolutionary Synthesis
05 Joel Hagen Descended from Darwin?
George Gaylord Simpson, Morris Goodman, and Primate Systematics
06 Joe Cain Ernst Mayr and the ‘Biology of Birds’
07 Gregory Davis,
Michael Dietrich,
and David Jacobs
Homeotic Mutants and the Assimilation of Developmental Genetics into the Evolutionary Synthesis, 1915-1952
  Part 3 New Ideas and New Directions
08 Erika Milam The Experimental Animal from the Naturalist’s Point of View:
Behavior and Evolution at the AMNH, 1928-1954
09 David Sepkoski The Delayed Synthesis: Paleobiology in the 1970s
10 John Ceccatti Natural Selection in the Field: Insecticide Resistance, Economic Entomology, and the Evolutionary Synthesis, 1914-1951
  Part 4 Evolutionary Theory Meets Practice
11 Frederick Davis Papilio dardanus:
The Natural Animal from the Experimentalist’s Point of View
12 David Wÿss Rudge H.B.D. Kettlewell’s Research 1934-1961: The Influence of J.W. Heslop Harrison
13 Roberta Millstein Concepts of Drift and Selection in “The Great Snail Debate” of the 1950s and early 1960s
14 Robert Skipper Revisiting the RA Fisher-Sewall Wright Controversy
15 Mark Borrello Shifting Balance and Balancing Selection:
A Group Selectionist’s Interpretation of Wright and Dobzhansky

Papers in this volume are freely available for download, through the generous support of the American Philosophical Society. Users are expected to respect intellectual property rights. Queries on re-use and permission should be directed to the publisher in the first instance. To encouarge free distribution as a model and to ensure long-term availability, please ask your library to purchase a paper copy of this volume.

Professor Joe Cain is UCL Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology. Professor Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University.