John Burdon Sanderson Haldane
Always known simply as `JBS’, was a biologist, one of the founders of population genetics.
Haldane was born in Edinburgh on November 5th 1892, the son of the medical doctor John Scott Haldane and his wife Louisa. He was educated at Dragon School, Eton College (which he hated) and at New College, Oxford. During the First World War, Haldane served with the Black Watch in France and Iraq. Whilst in the army, he became a socialist.
Between 1919 and 1922 he was a fellow of New College, then moved to Cambridge University until 1932. He then moved to University College, London where he spent most of the remainder of his academic career. In the late 1950s he moved to India, a move ostensibly a protest against the Suez War.
In 1924 Haldane met Charlotte Burghes (nee Franken) and the two later married. Charlotte was divorced by her husband Jack Burghes, with Haldane publicly named amidst great controversy. [See separate entry for Charlotte.]
A great science populariser, his essay, ‘Daedalus or Science and the Future‘ (1923) predicted many scientific advances, albeit in a rather idealistic way. In 1925, he was involved in an important development of an aspect of enzyme kinetics in biochemistry. Haldane was a keen experimenter, willing to expose himself to danger to obtain data. He suffered crushed vertebrae from one experiment and perforated eardrums from decompression chamber experiments.
In 1928, Haldane, went to the Soviet Union, where he encountered Marxist philosophy of science for the first time and gradually began to author many articles in the Daily Worker. From 1937, Haldane was a full member of the Communist Party and remined devoted until the celebrated Lysenko affair caused him to break with the Party in 1950. Although only a short while before he had considered standing for Parliament as a Communist Party candidate.
His famous `The Causes of Evolution’He is also known for an observation from his essay, `On Being the Right Sizeeferred to as ’, which many have rHaldane’s principle. This is that sheer size very often defines what bodily equipment an animal must have. (1932) re-established natural selection as the key mechanism of evolution by explaining it in terms of the mathematical consequences of Mendelian genetics.
Haldane was friends with the author Aldous HuxleyIn one of the last speeches of his life, Biological Possibilities for the Human Species of the Next Ten Thousand Years in 1963, a year before he died, on December 1st 1964, he coined the word “clone,” from the Greek word for twig., and was the basis for the biologist Shearwater in Huxley’s novel Antic Hay and ideas from Haldane’s Daedalus also influenced Huxley’s Brave New World.
Pic: Haldane in late life, with his second wife:
`Daedalus, or Science and the future’ (1923)
`Science and the Supernatural’ (1931-33)
`The Causes of Evolution’ (1932)
`Human Biology and Politics’ (1934)
`My Friend Mr. Leakey, (1934/7?) (children’s story)
`A Dialectical Account of Evolution’ (1937)
`Reply to Lerner’s Is Professor Haldane’s Account of Evolution Dialectical?’ (1938)
`From The Marxist Philosophy and the Sciences’ (1939)
`Lysenko and Genetics’ (1940)
`Why I am a Materialist’ (1940)
`The Laws of Nature’ (1941)
`Adventures of a Biologist’ (1947)
`What is Life?’ (1947/9)
`Why professional workers should be Communists’ (1945)
Hands off the Daily Worker [1940?]
Daily worker on the atom bomb: reprint of three articles [1945?].
Be the first to comment