Genetics, Paleontology, and Evolution: An International Conference held at the Princeton Inn
Held at the Princeton Inn
In 1947, the world was just beginning to return to some semblance of post-war normalcy. The war had interrupted many peacetime developments including the re-formulation of our ideas of Darwinian evolution. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Darwin’s concept of Natural Selection had received support from the research of cell geneticists. This culminated in the elaboration of the synthetic theory, neo-Darwinism, which integrated genetics with Natural Selection into a powerful explanatory theory of earthly life. Julian Huxley had published Evolution, the Modern Synthesis in 1942 but the war had prevented its broad dissemination.
During the war, there had been several small meetings in the United States in which these results had been discussed; at the end of 1946, the Society for the Study of Evolution held its first annual meeting. These preliminary discussions culminated with the convening of the International Conference on Genetics, Paleontology, and Evolution, which was held at the Princeton Inn (now Forbes College) on 2-4 January 1947. The proceedings of this conference were gathered together under the editorship of Glenn Jepsen (Professor of Geology at Princeton and one of the foremost scholars in his field), George Gaylord Simpson and Ernst Mayr and published by the Princeton University Press in 1949 as Genetics, Paleontology and Evolution. It is no exaggeration to say that the appearance of this volume represented one of the milestones of twentieth century evolutionary science.
By bringing together in one book scholars from a wide variety of biological disciplines who had had little or no previous contact and who had in fact harbored some distrust of each other, the articles documented the ways by which varying biological data served to support the Synthetic Theory. As Bentley Glass noted in his review of the volume, “The highest praise that can be given is that a true synthesis of evolutionary theory is heralded and inaugurated in these pages”. It would indeed be the highest praise if Princeton University and the Press were to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the convening of this conference, which did so much to spread the word of the emergence of the Synthetic Theory to the scientific and lay community.
Professor Alan Mann
Department of Anthropology