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Reasons for Being Nice and Having Sex

Andrew Berry: W.D. Hamilton, 6 February 2003

Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W.D. Hamilton. Vol. II: The Evolution of Sex 
by W.D. Hamilton.
Oxford, 872 pp., £50, January 2001, 0 19 850336 9
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... Early in the first volume of his collected papers, the evolutionary biologist W.D. Hamilton retells a Victorian joke. Two ladies are conversing, and one says: ‘Have you heard that Mr Darwin says we are all descended from an ape?’ The other replies: ‘Oh, my dear – that surely cannot be true! … But, if it should be true, let us pray that at least it will not become generally known!’ Hamilton sees this response as being as relevant today as it was then: people have ‘an instant, automatic wish for both the evidence and the idea to go away’ because evolutionary notions ‘have the unfortunate property of being solvents of a vital societal glue ...

Boy or Girl

John Maynard Smith, 3 February 1983

The Theory of Sex Allocation 
by Eric Charnov.
Princeton, 355 pp., £29.80, December 1982, 0 691 08311 8
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... least in these insects. The first major advance in sex ratio theory after Fisher was made by W.D. Hamilton, who realised that Fisher had made a tacit assumption about the breeding system. The nature of the assumption is best seen by considering an exception. Suppose that the offspring of a particular female always mate among themselves, brother with ...

Altruists at War

W.G. Runciman: Human Reciprocity, 23 February 2012

A Co-operative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution 
by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis.
Princeton, 262 pp., £24.95, July 2011, 978 0 691 15125 0
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... of the group to which the individual belongs. That question was effectively disposed of by W.D. Hamilton and others, who showed how altruism, as a strategy transmitted either genetically or culturally (or both), can spread in a population provided that its carriers are more likely than they would be by chance to receive a benefit from those with whom they ...

Genes and Memes

John Maynard Smith, 4 February 1982

The Extended Phenotype 
by Richard Dawkins.
Freeman, 307 pp., £9.95, December 1981, 0 7167 1358 6
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... selection acts – individual, population, species or ecosystem. At almost the same time, W.D. Hamilton raised another question about how natural selection acts. He pointed out that if a gene were to cause its possessor to sacrifice its life in order to save the lives of several relatives, there might be more copies of the gene present afterwards than if ...

Disturbingly Slender Waists

Miriam Rothschild, 25 October 1990

The Ants 
by Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson.
Springer, 732 pp., DM 198, March 1990, 3 540 52092 9
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... insight, but emphasises that the modern theory of kin selection and sterile castes is due to W.D. Hamilton, with an important extension by Trivers and Hare. This approach adds immensely to the value of such a monograph. Kin selection involves collateral gene descent which boosts the welfare of relatives, not necessarily direct offspring, who possess the same ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... company, and by me: Joseph Brodsky, Tom Paulin and, most intimately though I knew him least, Ian Hamilton. When I sent him a copy of my first book, I realised I’d even purloined his initials for my title. I wasn’t of an age to have been reading, never mind submitting to, his magazines, The Review and The New Review, but when I started publishing around ...

Follow-the-Leader

Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell, 14 May 2009

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... in a moment of rage; portions of some of his letters to Caroline Blackwood were transcribed by Ian Hamilton for his biography, but the letters themselves were stolen and have not resurfaced. Bishop’s letters to Lota de Macedo Soares were destroyed after Lota’s suicide. But there remain many unpublished letters by Bishop and Lowell. An edition of Bishop’s ...

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