Photo by Ryan Draft
With an undergraduate degree in zoology from Oxford and a PhD in evolutionary genetics from Princeton, I originally came to Cambridge MA as a Harvard Junior Fellow. I am currently an Assistant Head Tutor of Integrative Biology and Lecturer on Organismic & Evolutionary Biology here at Harvard.
Evolutionary Biology: I am interested in genetic and statistical approaches to detecting adaptive evolution (instances of positive natural selection) in genomes. I am especially fascinated by islands because they are so often home to remarkable evolutionary innovations.
History of Science: Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer with Darwin of evolution by natural selection, is a special interest of mine. In general, I am interested in the role of natural history in the development of evolutionary thinking.
Here's a recent (2020) interview for Current Biology.
And a more recent (2022) one for The Harvard Crimson.
I currently teach six courses at Harvard:
SPU 20 What is Life? (with Logan McCarty [Chemistry]). An investigation of the physico-chemical basis of living systems -- everything from quarks to consciousness. Here is a short trailer that showcases some of the Science-Meets-Art aspects of the course.
OEB 53 Evolutionary Biology A mid-level course on of evolution, from the micro-evolutionary forces of population genetics to the grand sweep of the history of life.
Gened 1004 Understanding Darwinism (with Janet Browne [History of Science]). A joint exploration of evolutionary ideas and their historical development. Here is some information about the course from the Harvard Gazette. Some more Gazette coverage here too.
LS 1b Genetics, Genomics & Evolution (with Hopi Hoekstra & Pardis Sabeti). First Year introductory course.
Bios S-112 & Bios S-113 Darwin in Oxford Harvard Summer Program. [Currently on hiatus] This intensive six week summer program is based in Queen's College, Oxford. The first course is straight history of science, identifying the key factors underlying the rise of evolutionary thinking. The second retains a chronological structure and is a exploration both of the original Darwin-Wallace theory and its subsequent elaboration.
Being in the UK allows us to visit many sites of historical significance to the evolution story, often with expert guidance: Jim Moore shows us around Darwin's Cambridge, and we visit Down House with Janet Browne. For photos from '19's program, see here.
I also teach every year at Sabanci University, in the world's finest city, Istanbul. I teach a segment of NS 102 on Evolution & Ecology.
Books. I have written two books (and the introduction to a third).
Infinite Tropics (Verso 2002; foreword by Stephen Jay Gould), a collection of the writings of Alfred Russel Wallace. Unlike many of his scientific colleagues (including Darwin), Wallace did not limit himself to writing on science, but saw his position as a public intellectual to be an opportunity to campaign on topics as diverse as votes for women (he was resolutely in favor) and conservation. The topics are disparate, but Wallace's writing is uniformly eloquent and compelling.
DNA (with Jim Watson) (Knopf 2003; second edition 2017 [with Kevin Davies]) Part history, part exploration of the controversies swirling around DNA-based technologies, we wrote this to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery by Watson & Crick of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule.
Penguin Classics Edition of Wallace's Malay Archipelago. Penguin have added Wallace's best book to their Classics series -- Wallace's first appearance on that list. I wrote the introductory material.
Essay Reviews. A sample of my essays.
Technical Writing. I'll spare you the whole slate. Here are a few papers.
Ecology: the wonderful world of spool-&-line tracking of mammals in New Guinea (Journal of Mammalogy; pdf)
History of Science: the Wallace-Darwin announcement of Natural Selection (Nature; pdf). And here is my 2013 Comment in Nature to mark the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death in 1913 (Nature; pdf). Here is another centennial piece on Wallace (Current Biology; pdf). And, to mark his 200th birthday (8 Jan 2023, Nature, pdf).
Other... On a climbing website you can find a sprawling, heavily illustrated, account of my mountain-mediated homage to Darwin to mark his 200th birthday
Here are audio and/or video links to some public talks.
Darwin 200 Celebrations in Istanbul, May '09. I'm proud to report that these and other appearances in Turkey have provoked a prominent Turkish creationist organization to dub Doug Futuyma and me "imported American pagan priests"
In 2012, Cambridge Science Festival ran a "What if...?" event in which I and a couple of others explored "alternative histories of science." Here are a couple of clips of me on "What if Darwin hadn't gone on the voyage of the Beagle?"
2013 saw, in November, the Centenary of Wallace's death and a corresponding flurry of Wallace-related activity, including, at Harvard, an opportunity to meet the man himself (channelled by me) [sound only, and of occasionally dubious quality]. Here's a lovely animation of the Wallace story created by Sharon Shattuck and Flora Lichtman for which I did some of the narration. Here's my talk at the Royal Society's Wallace symposium; here a radio interview and a podcast + lecture from a visit to the University of Alberta. And three more lectures from the AMNH's Wallace Celebration, including one on Wallace's biogeography.
2014: a lecture on the current state of Darwinism at the Ratio science festival in Sofia, Bulgaria and another on Wallace at the UCLA centennial celebration of Wallace. And here's the talk I gave at the Harvard Museum of Natural History to mark the launch of the Penguin Classics edition of Wallace's The Malay Archipelago.
2017: a lecture at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City