California Academy of Sciences - To Explore, Explain, and Protect the Natural World

Micahel T. Ghiselin

Senior Research Fellow

B.A., University of Utah (1960); Ph.D., Stanford University (1965); Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University (1964-65); Postdoctoral Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory (1965-67); Assistant Professor of Zoology, University of California, Berkeley (1967-74); Associate Professor (1974-78); Guggenheim Fellow (1978-79); Research Professor of Biology, University of Utah (1980-83); MacArthur Prize Fellow (1981-86); Senior Research Fellow, California Academy of Sciences (1983- ).

I began my professional career as a comparative anatomist, and wrote my doctoral dissertation on the reproductive systems and phylogeny of opistobranch gastropods, a group upon which I still do some research. This work aroused my interest in the fundamental principles of systematics and the history and philosophy of biology. Much of my theoretical work has been focused upon the basic units in biology, especially the species, and their role in evolutionary thinking. It turns out that this work has broad implications and I have addressed some of these in my publications on philosophy, linguistics, developmental and cognitive psychology, and sociobiology.

A few years ago I realized that comparative anatomy would soon be revitalized by new molecular approaches, and began a program of research into that area. This research has focused upon the relationships of the major groups of animals, which includes, for example, the position of the mollusks in the phylogenetic tree. Looking ahead, I see opportunities to go beyond determining the branching sequences in such trees and explain the history of life, not just describe it.

Impressed early by the contributions of Darwin, I read all of his works, leading to a book that received the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society for 1969. As a direct consequence of this project, I was led to reconsider some of Darwin's neglected ideas, and to develop a theory explaining the kind of sex changes that occur in some coral reef fishes and other organisms. This has become an important aspect of an area of investigation called "sex-allocation theory," to which I have made a number of contributions. More generally, I have been led to believe that biology and economics are basically the same branch of knowledge. I have done much work in an attempt to synthesize the two disciplines. I continue to make contributions to Darwin studies, especially his impact on systematics.

Ghiselin, M.T. 1969. The triumph of the Darwinian Method. University of California Press, Berkeley.

___________. 1974. The Economy of Nature and the Evolution of Sex. University of California Press, Berkeley.

___________. 1974. A Radical Solution to the Species Problem. Systematic Zoology 23:536-544.

___________. 1981. Categories, Life, and Thinking. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4:269-313.

___________. 1988. The origin of mollusks in the light of molecular evidence. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology 5:66-95.

___________. 1995. Darwin, Progress, and Economic Principles. Evolution 49: 1029-1037.

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