Oh no. Richard Lewontin has died

This is terrible news. He was so influential on my thinking about biology, personally.

If I had my way, one of his books would be required reading in our introductory biology course (we decide on books as a group, so no, I’m not in charge). My only problem would be picking which one?

Fortunately, I do have total control over your reading habits (I don’t want to know if that’s not true), so I shall command you all to run out and buy and read all of these to do honor to the man.

OK, if you are resisting my influence, pick at least one. The first two are slim books, short and easy; if I were to foist any book on my students it would probably be The Triple Helix. They’re all good, and they all represent a perspective that our society needs right now.


  1. raven says

    PZ’s notice is pretty concise.
    Lewontin was 92, so his death is not unexpected and he had a long life.

    His doctoral thesis supervisor was Theodosius Dobzhansky, a famous geneticist in his day, which is before all of us.
    Dobzhansky was a prominent Ukrainian-American geneticist and evolutionary biologist, and a central figure in the field of evolutionary biology for his work in shaping the modern synthesis.[2][4] (Wikipedia).

  2. birgerjohansson says

    If the spouse of a 92-year- old passes away, it is not uncommon for the other to die shortly afterwards, as the shock seems to overwhelm whatever vitality is left. I have seen it happen to younger people than that.

  3. petesh says

    Great thinker. Excellent writer. And married to Mary for 73 years, I just learned, with four sons, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
    So if he shuffled off three days after she did, that makes a terrible but understandable sense. The little I heard about him personally reinforced my sense that he was a genuinely great person. I look forward to the obituaries he deserved and will reread some of his work. As I recall, The Triple Helix was wonderful, but The Doctrine of DNA (aka on first publication as Biology as Ideology and sometimes both) is the one I found first on my shelves. It’s short, too!

  4. drsteve says

    I’m just now in the middle of finally reading The Mismeasure of Man for the first time–and I ordered it for my sister, whose birthday happened to also be yesterday.

    So based on the titles this list sounds perfectly timed for me wanting to keep reading more in the same general theme (and also have a potential gift for next Christmas).

    Perhaps these Harvard professors isn’t quite as disreputable a lot as I’d thought. . .