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John Maynard Smith

John Maynard SmithBorn: 6-Jan-1920
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 19-Apr-2004
Location of death: Lewes, East Sussex, England
Cause of death: Cancer - Lung

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Biologist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Applied game theory to evolutionary biology

Military service: RAF (left in 1947)

John Maynard Smith was an eminent evolutionary biologist, classical geneticist and author whose work deeply impacted the way scientists and lay persons understood basic biological principles. Despite a plethora of contributions, he is probably best known for applying game theory to evolutionary biology as well as for his work on the adaptive value of sexual reproduction. He was the author of many influential books including, The Origins of Life, The Theory of Evolution, Evolution and the Theory of Games, and The Evolution of Sex.

Although Maynard Smith developed an early interest in naturalism (especially bird watching and the work of J.B.S. Haldane) he originally trained as an engineer and, after being turned away from the army in WWII (because of faulty eyesight), he applied his degree by designing military aircraft. After the war he changed direction, studying zoology at University College London, including fruit fly genetics under J.B.S. Haldane. He graduated in 1951 to become a lecturer in zoology and in 1962 he was appointed Dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the newly formed Sussex University. In 1985, he retired from teaching and administration, but continued to be highly active in research -- and he continued to write, producing four more books as well as some highly significant scientific papers.

Maynard Smith is remembered by students and colleagues as “a lovely man” passionately wielding his energy and sharp intellect in the pursuit of truth, seemingly undaunted by the forces of time that wear down other men (even after diagnosis with cancer), and always ready to share his time and critique and a bit of humor. He died in April 2004, professor emeritus at the University of Sussex, UK. Among the many honors accorded him in his lifetime were the Darwin Medal, the Crafoord Prize (awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in fields not eligible for Nobel prizes), and the Kyoto Prize (Japan's highest private award for lifetime achievement). In 2003, the University of Sussex renamed its biological sciences building after him.

Father: (surgeon)
Wife: Sheila Matthew (biologist, m. 1941, one daughter, two sons)
Son: Tony
Daughter: Carol
Son: Julian

    University: Eton College
    University: BA Engineering, Cambridge University (1941)
    University: BSc Zoology, University College London (1951)
    Professor: Lecturer, University College London (1952-65)
    Administrator: Dean, University of Sussex (1965-85)

    Communist Party Left party after 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary
    Darwin Medal 1986
    Frink Medal 1990
    Balzan Prize 1991
    Linnean Medal 1995
    Royal Medal 1997
    Crafoord Prize 1999
    Copley Medal 1999
    Kyoto Prize 2001 for lifetime achievement
    Royal Society Fellow (1977)
    Risk Factors: Colon Cancer

Author of books:
The Evolution of Sex (1978)
Evolution and the Theory of Games (1982)
Evolutionary Genetics (1989)
Major Transitions in Evolution (1995)
The Origins of Life (1999)
Animal Signals (2003)


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