This is a book which, as a student, I weighed as of equal importance to the entire test of my undergraduate Cambridge BA course and, through the time I spent on it, I think it notched down my degree. Most chapters took me weeks, some months; even Kafka whom I read at the same time couldn't depress me like Fisher could on, say, the subject of charity, nor excite me like his theory of civilisation.
Terrify was even the word in some topics and it still is, so deep has been the
change from all I was thinking before. And little modified even by molecular
genetics, Fisher's logic and ideas still underpin most of the ever broadening paths by which Darwinism continues its invasion of human thought.
For a book that I rate only second in importance in evolution theory to Darwin's "Origin" (this as joined with its supplement, "of Man"), and also rate as undoubtedly one of the greatest books of the present century, the appearance of a variorum version is a major event. Fisher's late-life changes for his 1958 Dover edition often confused as much as they clarified and this new edition should allow some of the old enigmas to be at last disentangled.
Unlike in 1958, natural selection has become part of the syllabus of our intellectual life and the topic is certainly included in every decent course in biology. By the time of my ultimate graduation, will I have understood all that is true in this book and will I get a First? I doubt it. In some ways some of us have overtaken
Fisher; in many, however, this brilliant, daring man is still fat in front.
W. D. Hamilton FRS, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.
The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, the great book in which R. A. Fisher provided a synthesis of Darwinian selection and Mendelian genetics, is one of the most frequently cited works in modern evolutionary biology.
This complete variorum edition presents the whole of the original text with the changes introduced in the 1958 edition clearly distinguished. The 1930 text is unchanged save for a few small errors shown as corrected; with the 1958 additions, various small errors are likewise corrected and a figure and several paragraphs which Fisher had intended for insertion in 1958 are included here for the first time.
For this new edition, Professor Henry Bennett has provided an introduction which throws light on the background to Fisher's preparation of the book and on
its reception and the production of the 1958 edition.
Professor Bennett also considers some of the main ideas introduced in the book, drawing on the contents of Fisher's published papers and his extensive
correspondence with Leonard Darwin and others. The editorial notes include some hitherto unpublished letters by Fisher, which shed fresh light on his thinking;
of particular interest is Fisher's response to a challenge from Charles Galton Darwin to provide a quantitative basis for the runaway process of sexual selection.