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John Burdon Sanderson Haldane

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964) was an English biologist who utilized mathematical analysis to study genetic phenomena and their relation to evolution.

Born at Oxford on Nov. 5, 1892, J. B. S. Haldane was the son of John Scott Haldane, a distinguished physiologist. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Haldane taught at Oxford (1919-1922), Cambridge (1922-1933), and the University of London (1933-1957), where he was elected the first Weldon professor of genetics in 1957. A lifelong Marxist, he was a member of the British Communist party, and for a number of years he was also chairman of the editorial board of the Daily Worker, the party's newspaper. In 1950, following his differences with Soviet geneticists, he resigned from the party.

Refusing to live in what he called "a criminal and police state that had attacked Egypt, " Haldane emigrated to India in 1957 and became the director of the Orissa State Government Genetics and Biometry Laboratory. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1932, awarded the Darwin Medal in 1953, and given the Kimber Genetics Award in 1957. Author of at least 8 books, he wrote over 300 scientific papers, and over 500 articles for the Daily Worker, Reynold News, and many other publications.

Haldane's Work

A contemporary of Ronald Fisher and Sewall Wright, but working independently of them, Haldane mathematically investigated problems dealing with Darwinian "variation" and established the relationship of Mendelian genetics to evolution. He also explored the possibility of estimating spontaneous mutation rates through the observation of harmful or sex-linked genes in populations. For instance, he declared that the rate of mutation of the sex-linked gene among hemophiliacs was between 10 and 50 per million per generation. With Julia Bell he investigated how close the link was between the gene which caused color blindness and that which caused hemophilia.

Haldane was also known for his work in enzyme kinetics. He adduced proof that reactions produced by enzymes obey the known laws of thermodynamics, and he mathematically calculated the rates at which enzyme reactions occur. During World War II he conducted experiments to find out how men could escape from sunken submarines without great difficulty. He showed that, by controlling Eustachian tubes, pressure on eardrums could be lessened. He determined the safest mixture of gases for breathing, depending upon depth and the duration of stay at that depth, to reduce the occurrence of bends. His outstanding contributions, however, were in mathematical genetics.

Haldane was married twice:his first marriage, in 1925, to Mrs. Charlotte Burghes almost led to his dismissal from Cambridge; in 1945 he married Dr. Helen Spurway, who survived him. Haldane died at Bhuvaneshwar, India, on Dec. 1, 1964.

Further Reading

Ronald William Clark, JBS:The Life and Work of J. B. S. Haldane (1968), is a readable study that includes a complete bibliography of Haldane's scientific papers. Haldane is memorialized in an anthology of essays and papers on his work and scientific contributions of his last 50 years, K. R. Dronamraju, ed., Haldane and Modern Biology (1968), which also includes some biographical information.

Additional Sources

Clark, Ronald William, J.B.S., the life and work of J.B.S. Haldane, Oxford Oxfordshire; New York:Oxford University Press, 1984, 1968.

Dronamraju, Krishna R., Haldane:the life and work of J.B.S. Haldane with special reference to India, Aberdeen:Aberdeen University Press, 1985. □

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Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (hôl´dān, –dən), 1892–1964, British geneticist, biologist, and popularizer of science; son of John Scott Haldane. As one of the most influential scientists of the 20th cent, he studied relationships among different disciplines and problems, including the consequence of Mendelian genetics on evolutionary theory, the relationship between enzymology and genetics, and the application of mathematics and statistics to the study of biology. His works which are numerous, include (with John S. Huxley) Animal Biology (1927), The Causes of Evolution (1937), New Paths in Genetics (1941), and Biochemistry of Genetics (1954). Haldane also wrote fiction and verse as well as political works in support of his Marxist position, notably The Marxist Philosophy and the Sciences (1938). Disillusioned with Marxism in the 1940s and 50s, he eventually moved to India to conduct scientific research.

See biography by R. W. Clark (1984); study ed. by K. R. Dronamraju (1968).

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Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson

Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson (1892–1964) A Scottish physiologist and genetist, who graduated from Oxford University in classics and philosophy, but who taught physiology and became interested in genetics. He investigated respiration and the effect of carbon dioxide in the blood, using himself as an experimental subject. Later he calculated the rate of enzyme reactions, proving these obey the laws of thermodynamics. Finally, he turned to the mathematics of natural selection. Haldane was born in Oxford, the son of John Scott Haldane, an eminent physiologist. In 1933 he was appointed professor of genetics at University College, London, where he later became professor of biometry. A committed atheist and Communist, he left the Communist Party because of the influence wielded by T. D. Lysenko. He migrated to India in 1957 in protest at the British and French invasion of Suez and died at Bhubaneshwar.

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