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Tribute to Theodosius Dobzhansky, part I

Theodosius Dobzhansky,

Theodosius Dobzhansky, from wikipedia commons.

When considering how our understanding of evolutionary biology has changed over the years, several scientists pop up as key players. Theodosius Dobzhansky is one of those influential scientists. He is probably most famous for the line that we began this course with: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." However, his contributions to our understanding of evolution go far beyond catchy lines.

Who is Dobzhansky?

Dobzhansky (1900 to 1975) was a Russian/American who began his work in Russia as a naturalist and taxonomist and then later came to America and began working in genetics (Kutschera & Niklas, 2004). In 1937, he published a piece that was a major synthesis of genetics and evolution and the beginnings of the unification of the modern theory of evolution. The book was aptly called 'Genetics and the Origin of Species' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodosius_Dobzhansky). Kutschera and Niklas (2004) call Dobzhansky "the 'catalyst' who brought together the two camps." He was a key player in the creation of the synthetic or modern theory of biological evolution.

As Farber (2003) explains, science is a process that is dynamic and changes through time. Dobzhansky's work is a perfect example of this. Dobzhansky used his knowledge and expertise to explain evolution from a different angle. He built on Darwin's theory of evolution and filled in many of the questions by synthesizing evolution with the study of genetics - a connection that forever changed our understanding of evolutionary biology.

Farber, P. 2003. Teaching evolution and the nature of science. American Biology Teacher. 65: 347 - 354.
Kutschera, U. & Niklas, K. (2004). The modern theory of biological evolution: an expanded synthesis. Naturwissenschaften 91:255–276