V. C. Wynne-Edwards bigraphy, stories - British zoologist

V. C. Wynne-Edwards : biography

4 July 1906 - 5 January 1997

Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards CBE, FRS, FRSE (4 July 1906 — 5 January 1997) was an English zoologist.

He was best known for espousing group selection, most notably in his 1962 book, Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behavior. In it, he argued that many behaviors are adaptations of the group, rather than adaptations of the individual, and that populations have adaptive self-regulatory mechanisms. His arguments were vigorously criticised by George C. Williams in his Adaptation and Natural Selection, as well as by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.

In 1970 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. His candidature citation read "Wynne-Edwards is noted for his many contributions to ecology. His early work was on social and other forms of rhythmic behaviour in birds. Later work on North Atlantic birds disclosed the existence of inshore, offshore and pelagic zones, each with a characteristic avian fauna. These categories have been found to apply generally to all oceans, and have been adopted as standard by later authors. His most important work has been on population dynamics in relation to social behaviour. It provides an hypothesis of homeostatic control of population density in animals at an optimum level, with a primary and universal function of sociality. Wynne-Edwards directs two research teams devoted to this work. He has also published papers on the animals and plants of the Arctic"

His son Hugh Wynne-Edwards is a professor of geology, and his granddaughter Kathy Wynne-Edwards a professor of biology at Queen's University.


  • Wynne-Edwards, V.C. 1962. Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behavior. Oliver & Boyd, London.
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