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George Williams

Professor George Christopher Williams (b. May 12, 1926) is an American evolutionary biologist.

Williams is a professor emeritus of biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is best known for his vigorous critique of group selection. In his first book, Adaptation and Natural Selection, he argued that adaptation was an "onerous" concept that should only be invoked when necessary, and, that, when it is necessary, selection among genes or individuals would in general be the preferable explanation for it. He elaborated this view in later books and papers, which contributed to the development of a gene-centered view of evolution. He is also well known for his work on the evolution of sex, which is also informed by his interest in the units of selection.

Williams received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1955. At Stony Brook he taught courses in marine vertebrate zoology, and he often uses ichthyological examples in his books.

He won the Crafoord Prize for Bioscience jointly with Ernst Mayr and John Maynard Smith in 1999.

He is also an advocate of evolutionary medicine.


  • Williams, G.C. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
  • Williams, G.C., ed. 1971. Group Selection. Aldine-Atherton, Chicago.
  • Williams, G.C. 1975. Sex and Evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
  • Paradis, J. and G.C. Williams. 1989. T.H. Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics : with New Essays on its Victorian and Sociobiological Context. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
  • Nesse, R.M. and G.C. Williams. 1994. Why We Get Sick : the New Science of Darwinian Medicine. Times Books, New York.
  • Williams, G.C. 1992. Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Williams, G.C. 1996. Plan and Purpose in Nature. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London (published in the U.S. in 1997 as The Pony Fish’s Glow : and Other Clues to Plan and Purpose in Nature. Basic Books, New York).

Selected papers

  • Taylor, P. O. and G. C. Williams. 1984. Demographic parameters at evolutionary equilibrium. Canadian Journal of Zoology 62: 2264-2271.
  • Williams, G. C. 1985. A defense of reductionism in evolutionary biology. Oxford Surveys in Evolutionary Biology 2: 127.
  • Williams, G. C. 1988. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics in sociobiological perspective. Zygon 23: 383-438.
  • Williams, G. C. 1995. A package of information In J. Brockman, ed., The Third Culture, New York: Touchstone, pp. 38-50.

External links

de:George C. Williams hu:George C. Williams

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