Dawkins, Richard

views updated

Richard Dawkins (Clinton Richard Dawkins), 1941– British evolutionary biologist and ethologist, b. Kenya, Ph.D. Oxford, 1966. He was a research assistant under Nikolaas Tinbergen at Oxford until 1967, became an assistant professor of biology at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, until 1969, then returned to Oxford as a reader in zoology. A fellow of New College, Oxford (1970–), he was Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science from 1995 to 2008. Dawkins, an avowed atheist and critic of religion and especially creationism, has promoted the idea of gene selection as the primary force in evolution. He also introduced the concept of the meme as an element of cultural behavior or thought pattern that is passed from one individual to another within a society, permitting the study of cultural evolution in Darwinian terms. In 2006 he founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. His numerous writings include The Selfish Gene (1976), The Extended Phenotype (1982), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), The God Delusion (2006), and a children's book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (2011). He also has made a number of documentary films.

See his memoir (2013); A. Grafen and M. Ridley, ed., Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think (2007).