by Greg Mayer
Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) was a Russian-American geneticist who was perhaps the most important evolutionary biologist of the 20th century. Because he was Dick Lewontin’s thesis advisor, he’s Jerry’s academic grandfather. I’ve just put together a little exhibit in his honor in the Library of the University of Wiscosnsin-Parkside.
Dobzhansky’s seminal 1937 book, Genetics and the Origin of Species, was a crucial contribution and inspiration to the “Modern Synthesis”, which demonstrated that evolutionary patterns and processes in natural populations are consistent with Darwinian natural selection, the hereditary mechanisms revealed by laboratory work in genetics, and the mathematical theories of population genetics. It was 75 years ago, in 1936, that Dobzhansky, at the time a professor at Cal Tech, delivered the series of lectures at Columbia University that were the basis for the book. It was through this book, much more so than the previous but more theoretical works of R.A. Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane and S. Wright, that the biological community as a whole became aware of the developments in evolutionary biology, and it inspired an outpouring of work carried on in the same synthetic spirit, by workers such as Ernst Mayr, G.G. Simpson, and G.L. Stebbins.
The exhibit consists of books, papers, and objects by, about, or relating to Dobzhansky, including items from Dick Lewontin and Jerry.
The exhibit also includes examples of the organisms Dobzhansky spent most of his life studying: fruit flies of the genus Drosophila, and beetles of the family Coccinellidae (the latter often called ladybugs or ladybird beetles). The exhibit will be open during regular library hours till the end of the month. If you’re in the area, stop by.