Andrew Berry

Andrew Berry teaches evolutionary biology at Harvard.

One Single Plan: Proto-Darwinism

Andrew Berry, 17 March 2005

For three days – les trois glorieuses – at the end of July 1830, Paris was in turmoil. The attempt by Charles X and his ultra-royalist first minister, the Prince de Polignac, to stamp out liberal discontent with a set of repressive ordinances had backfired. By 28 July, insurgents had raised barricades, taken the Hôtel de Ville, and driven royalist troops out of Paris. Charles...

Whenever you can, count: Galton

Andrew Berry, 4 December 2003

In 1904, George Bernard Shaw announced that there was now ‘no reasonable excuse for refusing to face the fact that nothing but a eugenic religion can save our civilisation’; in 1912, Major Leonard Darwin, Charles Darwin’s son, jubilantly launched a campaign for eugenic legislation designed ‘to stamp out feeble-mindedness from future generations’; and in 1919,...

Surprisingly, it is not at all clear why sex exists. Requiring the contribution of two parents in the production of offspring is remarkably inefficient. In evolutionary terms, hermaphroditism is . . . twice as efficient a reproductive strategy as sex. Why, then, isn’t the natural world dominated by male-less species?

Scientific discovery, as any PhD student halfway through their project will tell you, is hard work: progress is step-wise, and the steps are small. Not surprisingly, however, the popular view of science overlooks the daily grind and focuses instead on the occasional flashes of inspiration that have punctuated its history. In this view, science progresses in a series of great leaps forward,...

Wrinkled v. Round: Gregor Mendel

Andrew Berry, 8 February 2001

A report in Science magazine in 1990 exposed the absurdity of our publish-or-perish academic culture. It focused on citation rates – the frequency with which my article is referred to by my colleagues, or indeed by me – which serve as an index of the impact of a particular piece of research. Because of the plethora of obscure or regional journals in circulation, the study was...

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