Arthur, Wallace 1952-

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Arthur, Wallace 1952-

PERSONAL: Born 1952, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Education: Attended Campbell College (Belfast, Northern Ireland); Queen’s University (Belfast, Northern Ireland); New University of Ulster (now University of Ulster), B.Sc.; University of Nottingham, Ph.D., 1977.

ADDRESSES: Office— Department of Zoology, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Rd., Galway, Ireland; fax: 00 353 91 750526. E-mail— [email protected]

CAREER: Writer, educator, theoretical biologist, and zoologist. National University of Ireland, Galway, professor of zoology and head of department, 2004—. Held academic positions at the University of Sussex, University of Liverpool, University of Sunderland, and Harvard University.


Mechanisms of Morphological Evolution: A Combined Genetic, Developmental, and Ecological Approach, Wiley (New York, NY), 1984.

The Niche in Competition and Evolution, Wiley (New York, NY), 1987.

Theories of Life: Darwin, Mendel, and Beyond, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1987.

A Theory of the Evolution of Development, Wiley (New York, NY), 1988.

The Green Machine: Ecology and the Balance of Nature, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1990.

The Origin of Animal Body Plans: A Study in Evolutionary Developmental Biology, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Biased Embryos and Evolution, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Creatures of Accident: The Rise of the Animal Kingdom, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to journals, including National Review of Genetics, BioEssays, Evolution & Development, Evolutionary Development, Current Biology, Heredity, and Nature. Evolution and Development, founding editor.

SIDELIGHTS: A theoretical biologist and zoologist at the National University of Ireland in Galway, author Wallace Arthur works in the relatively new and growing area of evolutionary development. This field of evolutionary science suggests that development is the cause of evolutionary change—that is, for an organism to be appreciably different from its progenitors, it must somehow change the way it develops. This developmental change therefore leads to evolutionary change. In A Theory of the Evolution of Development, Arthur explores this concept of evolutionary development, establishing a hierarchical model of the development of organisms and identifying those areas where change takes place. These hierarchical controls of development have a genetic basis, and in this work, Arthur “provides the most coherent statement of this viewpoint and has best explored its implications,” commented Gary Freeman in BioScience. Arthur, Freeman noted, “has gone to a great deal of trouble to present his ideas clearly and to explore their implications.” Freeman concluded that A Theory of the Evolution of Development“should be required reading for every molecular biologist who sets out to explain evolution.”

With Creatures of Accident: The Rise of the Animal Kingdom, Arthur considers in greater depth the methods and mechanisms by which living organisms change and evolve. Underlying Arthur’s book is an argument against the concept of intelligent design, the theory that suggests that, since life is so complex, it must have been the result of an intelligent force that designed and balanced all the elements. Arthur explains clearly and in depth how even the most complex organisms and living systems could have resulted from the occurrence of numerous random genetic accidents. He notes that evolution does not strictly occur along axes of either great diversity or deep complexity, but instead exists in a continuum between diversity and complexity. Complex living creatures can arise through entirely natural processes, and Arthur’s book “makes this case through a series of easily intelligible, chatty chapters,” commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. He traces the steps whereby organisms became complex, from the earliest mutations that allowed cells to clump together and create a multicellular organism, to the mutations that changed shapes from round to bilateral, creating a left and right and a front and rear, to the evolutionary changes that allowed organisms to better interact with their environments. “Arthur’s precision about the process of evolution will benefit serious students of the topic,” remarked Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book “a short, reader-friendly discourse on the accidental rise of creatures great and small—emphasis on accidental.”



BioScience, September, 1989, Gary Freeman, review of A Theory of the Evolution of Development, p. 568.

Booklist, September 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Creatures of Accident: The Rise of the Animal Kingdom, p. 30.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of Creatures of Accident, p. 607.

Publishers Weekly, June 5, 2006, review of Creatures of Accident, p. 51.

Quarterly Review of Biology, June, 2005, W.J. Dickinson, review of Biased Embryos and Evolution, p. 244.

Science News, October 21, 2006, review of Creatures of Accident, p. 271.


American Scientist Online,; (January 22, 2007), “Scientists’ Nightstand: The Bookshelf Talks with Wallace Arthur.”

Creatures of Accident Web site, (January 22, 2007), interview with Wallace Arthur.

National University of Ireland, Galway, Department of Zoology Web site, (January 22, 2007), curriculum vitae of Wallace Arthur.*

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