Ernst W. Mayr

related topics
{specie, animal, plant}
{work, book, publish}
{theory, work, human}
{son, year, death}
{school, student, university}

Ernst Walter Mayr (July 5, 1904 – February 3, 2005) was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, historian of science, and naturalist. His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the modern evolutionary synthesis of Mendelian genetics, systematics, and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept.

Neither Charles Darwin nor anyone else in his time knew the answer to the species problem: how multiple species could evolve from a single common ancestor. Ernst Mayr approached the problem with a new definition for the concept of species. In his book Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942) he wrote that a species is not just a group of morphologically similar individuals, but a group that can breed only among themselves, excluding all others. When populations of organisms get isolated, the sub-populations will start to differ through genetic drift and natural selection over a period of time, and thereby evolve into new species. The most significant and rapid genetic reorganization occurs in extremely small populations that have been isolated (as on islands).

His theory of peripatric speciation (a more precise form of allopatric speciation which he advanced), based on his work on birds, is still considered a leading mode of speciation, and was the theoretical underpinning for the theory of punctuated equilibrium, proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. Mayr is sometimes credited with inventing modern philosophy of biology, particularly the part related to evolutionary biology, which he distinguished from physics due to its introduction of (natural) history into science.

Contents

Full article ▸

related documents
Bigfoot
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jane Goodall
Heredity
Recapitulation theory
Aquatic ape hypothesis
Forensic entomology
Heinrich Anton de Bary
Milford H. Wolpoff
Biotope
Ernst Haeckel
Kin selection
Piltdown Man
Molecular phylogenetics
Phenetics
Neoteny
Phenotype
Pteranodon
Locust
Gregor Mendel
Hallucigenia
Paranthropus
Eusociality
Junk DNA
Australian Kelpie
Mouse
Possum
Gecko
Strepsiptera
Diprotodontia