Evolution by jumps: Francis Galton and William Bateson and the mechanism of evolutionary change

  • Gillham N
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FRANCIS Galton (1822-1911) genuinely disagreed with his cousin Charles Darwin concerning the mechanism of evolutionary change (see CROW 1993; MAYNARD-SMITH 1993; GILLHAM 2001). He felt that the small, incremental steps by which natural selection supposedly proceeded would be thwarted by a phenomenon he had discovered, which he called regression (or reversion) to the mean. Hence, Galton believed that evolution must proceed via discontinuous steps. We would call them saltations, but he named them "transiliencies." This was to some extent a throwback to views held earlier by Huxley and Lyell, from paleontological observations (see, for example, LYONS 1993, LYONS 1995). As fate would have it, Galton found himself strongly allied with the young geneticist William Bateson, who would become Mendel's great champion in Great Britain. This article describes how Galton and Bateson came independently to the conclusion that evolution must proceed in discontinuous steps.

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  • Nicholas W. Gillham

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