John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, 1892 - 1964

portrait of J. B. S. Haldane
1941 photo by Hans Wild, LIFE

Born: 5 November 1892, Oxford, England, UK
Died: 1 December 1964, Bhubaneswar, India

Haldane was educated at Dragon School, Eton and Oxford, mastering Latin, Greek, French, and German while earning a "double first" in mathematics and classics, even though his interests were mostly in science. Possibly most important is the time he spent assisting his physiologist father in the lab from age eight. His primary work was in genetics, being the first to provide a mathematical basis for Mendelian genetics and for Darwin's evolution. He fought fiercely in France and Iraq during WW I, joining the Black Watch, a Scots regiment the Germans called the "Ladies from Hell" because of their kilts and fearlessness. He did research at Oxford, then accepted a readership in biochemistry at Cambridge where he did his major work in evolutionary genetics, then held a professorship in genetics at the University of London. An open Socialist, he spent WW II as a researcher in the effects of high pressure on humans to develop means of protecting submariners; after he died it was determined that he was also a Soviet agent. Haldane could also be annoying; his wartime research in respiration taught him how to inhale while talking which meant that he never had to stop for a breath. Heavy-handed Soviet control of science finally caused him to abandon Communism in 1950, in 1957 he became disgusted with policies of the British government and moved to India where he spent the rest of his life. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1963 and died from that the following year.

Biography from Wikipedia and Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending

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