John Maynard Smith

John Maynard Smith bigraphy, stories - Evolutionary biologist and geneticist

John Maynard Smith : biography

df=y June 1 – 19 April 2004

John Maynard Smith,His surname was Maynard Smith, not Smith, nor was it hyphenated. F.R.S. (6 January 1920 – 19 April 2004) was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. Originally an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War, he took a second degree in genetics under the well-known biologist J.B.S. Haldane. Maynard Smith was instrumental in the application of game theory to evolution and theorized on other problems such as the evolution of sex and signalling theory.



  • Maynard Smith, J. (1958). The Theory of Evolution. London, Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-020433-4
    • 1993 edn ISBN 0-521-45128-0
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1968) Mathematical Ideas in Biology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-07335-9
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1972) On Evolution. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-85224-223-9
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1974b) Models in Ecology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20262-0
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1978d) The Evolution of Sex. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29302-2
  • Maynard Smith, J. (ed.) (1981d) Evolution Now. London, Macmillan. ISBN 0-7167-1426-4
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1982d) Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28884-3
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1986b) The Problems of Biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-289198-7
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1988a) Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution. London, Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0-412-03821-8
  • Maynard Smith, J. (1989a) Evolutionary Genetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850231-1
  • Maynard Smith, J. and Szathmáry, E. (1997) The Major Transitions in Evolution. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850294-X
  • Maynard Smith, J. and Szathmáry, E. (1999) The Origins of Life: From the Birth of Life to the Origin of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-286209-X
  • Maynard Smith, J. and Harper, D. (2003) Animal Signals. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-852685-7

Awards and Fellowships

  • Fellow, Royal Society (1977)
  • Darwin Medal (1986)
  • Frink Medal (1990)
  • Balzan Prize (1991)
  • Linnean Medal (1995)
  • Royal Medal (1997)
  • Crafoord Prize (1999)
  • Copley Medal (1999)
  • Kyoto Prize (2001)
  • Darwin-Wallace Award (2008). This used to be bestowed every 50 years by the Linnean Society of London; Maynard Smith was one of thirteen co-recipients. Since 2010, the medal has been awarded annually.


Early years

John Maynard Smith was born in London, the son of the surgeon Sidney Maynard Smith, but following his father’s death in 1928 the family moved to Exmoor, where he became interested in natural history. Quite unhappy with the lack of formal science education at Eton College, Maynard Smith took it upon himself to develop an interest in Darwinian evolutionary theory and mathematics, after having read the work of old Etonian J.B.S. Haldane, whose books were in the school’s library despite the bad reputation Haldane had at Eton for his communism.

On leaving school, Maynard Smith joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and started studying engineering at Trinity College Cambridge. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, he defied his party’s line and volunteered for service. He was rejected, however, because of poor eyesight and was told to finish his engineering degree, which he did in 1941. He later quipped that "under the circumstances, my poor eyesight was a selective advantage—it stopped me getting shot". The year of his graduation, he married Sheila Matthew, and they later had two sons and one daughter (Tony, Carol, and Julian). Between 1942 and 1947 he applied his degree to military aircraft design.

Second degree