An Appetite for Wonder: Appendix
An Appetite for Wonder mentions a number of documents, which couldn't quite be fitted in the book itself, although I would have liked to do so. They have been gathered here into an e-Appendix. From time to time I may add to the e-Appendix.Richard Dawkins
- "O, my beloved father": John Dawkins, 1915-2010
- "More than my uncle": A. F. "Bill" Dawkins, 1916-2009
- The best of British: Richard Wildman Kettlewell, CMG, 1910-1994
- A. G. Lowndes on levels of natural selection: a historical vignette
- Homage to Chippi: the egg song
- Mentor of a lifetime: Mike Cullen, 1927-2001
- The nearest we got to Darwin: eulogy for W. D. 'Bill' Hamilton, 1936-2000
- Hamilton and Housman: the immortal gene
- The Cornish connection: the courtship of Dr James Wearne
"O, my beloved father": John Dawkins, 1915-2010
I described in the first chapter of this book the difficulty with which I read Hilaire Belloc's poem 'To the Balliol Men Still in Africa' at my father's funeral. A little before that, after his death at the end of 2010, I had written his obituary for the Independent; it appeared in the 11 December issue of the paper.
My father, (Clinton) John Dawkins, who has died peacefully of old age, packed an enormous amount into his ninety-five years.
He was born in Mandalay in 1915, the eldest of three talented brothers. John's boyhood hobby of pressing flowers, reinforced by a famous biology teacher (A. G. Lowndes of Marlborough) led him to read botany at Oxford, and thence to study tropical agriculture at Cambridge and ICTA (Trinidad) in preparation for posting to Nyasaland as a junior agricultural officer. He and my mother, Jean Ladner, began their idyllic married life at various remote agricultural stations in Nyasaland before he was called up for wartime service in the King's African Rifles (KAR). He wangled permission to travel to Kenya in his own rattletrap car rather than with the regimental convoy, which enabled Jean to accompany him - illegally.
John's post-war work as an agricultural officer back in Nyasaland was interrupted when he received an unexpected legacy from a distant cousin. Over Norton Park had been owned by the Dawkins family since the 1720s. Cousin Hereward Dawkins, casting around the family tree for a male heir, could find none closer than my father, whom he had never met and who had never heard of him.
Hereward's gamble paid off. The young couple left Africa to run Over Norton as a commercial farm rather than a gentleman's estate. Against great odds (and discouraging advice from parents and family solicitor) they succeeded, and they could be said - by hard work and versatile intelligence - to have saved the family inheritance.
They turned the big house into flats, specializing in colonial servants sent 'home' on leave. Tractors didn't have compulsory cabs in those days, and Farmer John, wearing his old KAR hat (think Australian bushwhacker) could be heard across two fields bellowing psalms at the top of his voice ('Moab was my washpot') on his diminutive Ferguson tractor (diminutive was just as well, since he once contrived to run himself over with it).
Equally diminutive were the Jersey cows that graced the parkland. Their (now unfashionably) rich milk was separated into cream, which supplied most of the Oxford colleges and lots of shops and restaurants in the area, while, in a neat display of what John called 'music and movement', the skim milk nourished the large herd of pigs. The cream-separation apparatus itself was automated in a virtuoso display of John's characteristic Heath Robinson ingenuity, lashed up with binder twine - the inspiration for a rhyme composed by the long-serving pig farm manager, which included the lines: 'With clouds of steam and lights that flash, the scheme is most giganto / While churns take wings on nylon slings like fairies at the panto.'
John's binder-twine ingenuity extended beyond farming. Throughout his life he took up one creative hobby after another, and all benefited from his resourcefulness with red string and old scrap metal. Each Christmas there would be a new crop of home-made presents, beginning with the toys he made for me and my sister, moving on to equally beguiling contraptions for four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, his special art form being the use of two projectors to 'dissolve' slides into each other in matching sequence. Each performance had a theme, and his themes ranged from autumn leaves, through his beloved Ireland, to abstract art created by photographing the spectral patterns lurking deep inside cut-glass decanter stoppers. He automated the dissolving process by making his own 'iris diaphragms' for the alternating projectors, held together with rubber bands. Inexpensive, effective, and utterly characteristic.
He and Jean (who survives him) celebrated their seventieth wedding anniversary in 2009. In his nineties John slowed down and his memory slipped peacefully away. He learned to laugh at his infirmities with the benign cheerfulness that often deserts the very old. It inspired deep love in the large extended family, living in four separate houses all within the dry stone wall enclosing the ancestral land that he and Jean had saved.
"More than my uncle": A. F. "Bill" Dawkins, 1916-2009
My uncle and godfather Bill Dawkins died a year before his elder brother, my father. I delivered the eulogy for him at his funeral at St Michael and All Angels Church in Stockland, Devon, on Wednesday, 11 November 2009.
In 1972, the British government was trying to find a solution to the problem that was then Rhodesia. The Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, appointed a Royal Commission, under Lord Pearce, to tour the villages and byways of Rhodesia, trying to canvass popular opinion. The commissioners were old colonial types who, it was rightly supposed, had the necessary experience. Bill Dawkins was a natural for the Pearce Commission, and he was duly called out of retirement.
At that time, my Oxford college had an ancient and garrulous old classics don, living in, who had spent much of his life closely associated with the colonial service. Sir Christopher became obsessed with the Pearce Commission, and especially obsessed with Bill, probably because the BBC had taken to using his handsome features as their icon for that item on the news each night. As Lalla might have put it, Bill was excellent casting for the role. Although he had never met Bill, Sir Christopher clearly felt he knew him, as a kind of epitome of imperial uprightness and strength of character. This showed itself in such remarks as, 'Dawkins's uncle would soon put a stop to that.' Or 'I'd like to see anyone try to pull a fast one on Dawkins's uncle. Ha!'
The Pearce Commissioners were sent out to tour the country in pairs, with an entourage, and Bill was paired with another old colonial called Burkinshaw. True to Bill's iconic status, the BBC news cameras chose to follow Dawkins and Burkinshaw on one of these fact-finding missions, and Sir Christopher was agog in front of the television screen. I vividly remember his summation, the next day, in his distinctive old raconteur's voice: 'About Burkinshaw I will say nothing. Dawkins, however, is obviously accustomed to commanding men.'
David Attenborough told me he had exactly the same impression of Bill, and he drew himself up to his full height and pulled a realistically imperious face to illustrate the point. He had stayed with Bill and Diana while on a filming trip to Sierra Leone in 1954, and they remained friends thereafter.
I can't imagine anybody ever calling Bill either Arthur or Francis, although A.F. suited him well enough. Throughout his life, he was never called anything but Bill, which dated from babyhood when he was said to resemble Bill the Lizard in Alice in Wonderland. I looked up to him from the first day I met him. It was 1946, I was five years old and in the bath in the family house at Mullion. Bill must have just arrived from Africa, and my father brought his younger brother in to see me. I was awed by this tall, handsome figure, with black hair and moustache, blue eyes, and a strong military bearing. I looked up to him throughout my life, as a shining example of all that was good about the British in Africa. There was, of course, quite a bit that was bad about the British in Africa. But the good was very very good, and Bill was one of the best.
He was a notable athlete. At the prep school that I attended some twenty-five years after him, I remember my family pride at seeing his name on the roll of honour as the holder of the school record for the 100 yards. This speed obviously stood him in good stead later when, in the early stages of the war, he played rugby for the Army. I managed to track down a report of 22 April 1940, from the Times rugby correspondent, of what must have been an exciting match between the Army and the rest of Great Britain, which the Army won. Late in the game, it transpired that:
The Army passing remained ragged, but Dawkins and Wooller, by sheer dash and ability to pick up on the run, soon reminded Great Britain that these two players alone would take a lot of stopping given half a chance. First, Dawkins, at a great pace, sent Wooller striding for the line, with a stupendous dive-over at the finish. Next, Wooller sent in Dawkins.
Evidently the speed that won Bill the school record for the 100-yard dash had not deserted him, and 'dash' was clearly still the right word. 'Great pace', 'sheer dash' and 'obviously accustomed to commanding men'. But these phrases, impressive as they are, may represent the least of the qualities that we remember today. Here is a letter from a gentle and loving father to six-year-old Penny:
Do you remember the Morning Glory outside the house and sometimes we used to count the flowers on my way to the office and the most we ever got to was 54. Well, today there were 91 all on one side. Have you read this all without any help, because I have not used any long words like ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM, HAVE I? . . . Lots of Love XXXX from Daddy
I know people who would have given their eye teeth for a father like that, let alone a stepfather.
Bill was born in Burma in 1916. While his parents were still out there, he and his elder brother John were sent to boarding school in England, and spent their holidays with grandparents here in Devon, which is presumably when he acquired his love of this beautiful county.
By coincidence he was later to find himself back in Burma for the whole of the war, fighting the Japanese as an officer in the Sierra Leone Regiment, for it was British practice to use tropical soldiers in tropical theatres of war. He rose to the rank of major, and was mentioned in despatches.
He came to love the Sierra Leone people through commanding them in war; and after the war, when he followed the khaki-shorted family tradition of joining the Colonial Service, he applied to go to Sierra Leone, where he was promoted to District Commissioner in 1950.
It was a tough job, and he occasionally had to quell disturbances and riots, armed with nothing more than his innate air of being 'accustomed to commanding men'. The riots were not aimed at the colonial government but were to do with fighting between rival tribes. Bill, the District Commissioner, went striding in and read the Riot Act. Not metaphorically 'read the riot act': he literally read the Riot Act, every word of it. (I imagine the text as sewn into the lining of his pith helmet.) During one riot, Bill picked up an injured man and carried him to safety. The rioters tried to persuade him to put the man down, so that they could continue beating him up. Bill refused, knowing that, so long as he was carrying him, they wouldn't dare to hurt him. This curiously surreal approach to rioting reached its climax when, in the middle of one riot, everything suddenly went quiet as somebody shouted that 'The DC he done tire,' and a table and chair were lowered on a rope, from an upper window. According to Penny, who told me this story, a bottle of beer was solemnly placed on the table, and Bill was invited to sit down and drink the beer. This he did. Whereupon the table and chair were hauled upstairs again, and the riot resumed as if nothing had happened.
During another riot, one of the Africans was heard to shout these words of reassurance to everyone who could hear above the hubbub: 'It's all right everybody, everything will soon be all right, Major Donkins has arrived.' Presumably this was said by one of his wartime soldiers from Burma days, because Bill would never have used his military rank in peacetime. His name was widely mispronounced in Sierra Leone as Donkins. And on a later occasion, a letter addressed to 'The Colonial Donkey, Freetown' was successfully delivered.
Here's another letter to Bill from that period, dated 22 November 1954. It has nothing to do with riots, but is a letter of farewell from a grateful African (with an agenda). It read as follows:
My Dear Sir,
Farewell faithful friend, I must now bid adieu to these joys and pleasures I have tasted with you. We have laboured together united in heart but now we must close and soon we must part. My heart sinked within me to bid you adieu. Though absent in body I am with you in prayer that I will meet and work under you some where some how.
As the dearest friend of Mankind that is Jesus gave his body and blood as token and rememberance to his disciples that they remember him, so also I want you to give a token and that is a Permitt to purchase a single barrel shot gun . . .
It is always hard to make a new acquaintance. If I therefore leave the matter untouched it will then take some years. This matter however is suitable for this occasion as it will be a rememberance. I shall remember you through the Gun.
With every respect and honour to you Sir
Your Obedient Servant
Self-serving though this letter may be, the affection and respect shine through, and we may be sure that that part, at least, was sincere.
Bill's success as a DC was recognized in 1956, when he received an unexpected and rather glamorous promotion: seconded to run the West Indian island of Montserrat. The whole family moved to Government House on this tiny island, where Bill was, not quite literally, monarch of all he surveyed. It was then a paradise, before the catastrophes of Hurricane Hugo and the terrible volcano that laid waste to the island, where Thomas and Judith  still loyally soldier on. Bill was the Queen's official representative, so they had the Crown on their car instead of an ordinary number plate, and a flag on the bonnet, which was unfurled only when 'His Honour' was actually in the car. Diana played the role of consort, and we may be sure she played it to the full: patron of the Girl Guides, opening fetes and bazaars, and lots more. It must have seemed very different from the jungles of Sierra Leone. And Diana would have been brilliant at it, as she was in all other aspects of their life together. Bill played cricket for Montserrat against other West Indian islands, and was actually quite badly injured while keeping wicket.
Following the Montserrat interlude, when Bill's secondment came to an end he was offered another West Indian island, Grenada, but instead he characteristically opted to return to Africa, where the challenge was tougher and the need greater. He went back to Sierra Leone, now raised to the rank of Provincial Commissioner. At the end of this period, when Sierra Leone gained independence, he was again offered a West Indian island: Governor of St Vincent. As a full governorship, this would have carried a knighthood. However, mindful that his father, my grandfather, was ageing, and that Penny, at Cambridge, and Thomas, at Marlborough, might need a home base in England, he and Diana decided that he would retire from the Colonial Service and take a job as a schoolmaster.
He had read mathematical mods at Balliol, and so was equipped to teach mathematics. This he did, with great success, at Brentwood School. His dark good looks must, by then, have matured into something more formidable, for his nickname at Brentwood was Dracula. Or perhaps this was just a reference to his ability to keep order in class, a quality that is not universal among schoolmasters. Yet again, he was 'accustomed to commanding men'.
During this time at Brentwood, the family lived at Cox Green, in Essex, which I remember as a wonderfully happy house, where Sarah and I loved to go and stay, and where David Attenborough once came to visit and took us children for a gloriously unexpected day wading through ponds and streams looking for tadpoles.
Eventually, Bill retired from Brentwood, and he and Diana moved to Devon, haunt of Bill's childhood, and birthplace of Diana and Penny. Bill and Diana threw themselves into community life here, building up a small cottage industry with a series of knitting machines, creating an astonishing variety of intricately patterned garments. Another unexpected talent that Bill showed was for singing. Years earlier, he used to amuse us children with his two songs, 'Why has the cow got four legs?' and 'Tiddlywinks old man, get a kettle if you can' (sung to the tune of a sailor's hornpipe). Here in Devon he broadened his repertoire to include musical versions of Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales, which received great acclaim at village concerts.
Air of command and military bearing be blowed. There are greater qualities to admire. Bill was a loving husband, brother, father, grandfather and . . . uncle. Uncle Bill was more than my uncle, he was my godfather. In later life he laughingly said failed godfather, but with hindsight I think he did take a more than merely avuncular interest in my welfare. Either that, or he was just immensely kind to everyone. Which, now that I think about it, he was.
Towards the end of his life, he gave me one godfatherly piece of advice. He probably said it to others, but when he said it to me it was with a piercing look in those blue eyes, filled with wisdom and experience, which told me this was going to be a serious warning for a godson. 'You do know, don't you? Old age is a bugger.'
Well, he is liberated from that now, and at peace. He may have been accustomed to commanding men, but he was loved by them too. He was loved by everyone who knew him. He left the world a better place than he found it - several different places around the world. We mourn him. But, at the same time, we rejoice in him, and what he has left behind.
The best of British: Richard Wildman Kettlewell, CMG, 1910-1994
Dick Kettlewell and his wife Margaret were great friends of my family in Africa, and their son Michael later became my brother-in-law. When Dick died in 1994 I wrote his obituary, which was read out at his funeral by the vicar of Chipping Norton.
The colonies brought out both the best and the worst in the British. Richard Kettlewell, who died on 17 November aged eighty-four, was of the very best. He eventually rose to become Nyasaland's first holder of the office of Secretary of Natural Resources, but he is better known for his devoted service as Director of Agriculture. He led the department to become one of the best-regarded in Africa. To leave some corner of the Earth's surface in a better state than one found it is a worthy ambition for any man. Dick Kettlewell left a whole country in a better state, and in the most direct and tangible way, for his team transformed and enriched the whole spectrum of the natural resources of Nyasaland. He retired in 1962, greatly respected even by those who temporarily found themselves at odds with him during the painful transition to full 'Africanization', when Nyasaland became Malawi.
Dick Kettlewell was born on 12 February 1910. His parents must have had something of the robust, outdoor spirit he was later to show, for, at the end of the Dragon School term, they would row 80 miles in a Three Men in a Boat style skiff to collect young Dick and his elder brother on the Cherwell river boundary of the cricket field. After Clifton, Kettlewell read agriculture at Reading, where he met his future wife Margaret Palmer. He played for the university at both cricket and rugby for three years, captaining the rugby team for two of them. After taking his degree, he was accepted into the Colonial Agricultural Service and, following the customary postgraduate training in tropical agriculture at Cambridge and Trinidad, was posted to that distant country whose name, at the time, he scarcely knew - Nyasaland. Margaret joined him a year later for a quiet wedding under the jacaranda trees, and was immediately plunged into married life in a tiny house with no electricity and negligible plumbing, in a remote, mountainous district. They remained together for fifty-five years until Margaret's death in 1990 at the age of eighty-two, and had two children, Michael George Wildman, who is now a consultant surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and Alison Victoria, now an administrator at Princeton University.
The life of a junior agricultural officer in the 1930s was the very opposite of desk-bound. Kettlewell covered more than 2,000 roadless miles on foot during his first year, patrolling a 100-mile-long beat, up and down the shores of Lake Nyasa, honing his linguistic skills as he discussed seed quality or soil erosion with chiefs and headmen, fending off village hecklers with his walking stick or enraged hippos with his rifle, occasionally commissioned by anxious villagers to shoot a man-eating lion. Large areas in his charge were essentially uncharted, and Kettlewell set to work with compass and scientific triangulation methods to make his own maps. Much later, his intimate knowledge of the bush country proved invaluable when, as a senior government minister during the Emergency, he involved himself personally in dangerous aerial reconnaissance missions (he had already survived a terrible light-aircraft crash in 1956).
In 1939, Kettlewell was commissioned in the 2nd Battalion, the King's African Rifles, and was posted to Kenya in 1940, with his Nyasaland soldiers. As an intelligence officer he gained his first experience of aerial reconnaissance work and was mentioned in despatches. After the Italians had been driven out of Abyssinia, Kettlewell's brigade was sent to Ceylon (then arming against a threatened Japanese invasion) where he became brigade major.
In 1943 he returned to his beloved Nyasaland. His promotion through the Agriculture Department was rapid and he reached the point where further advancement would normally be conditional upon a move to another colony, to broaden his experience. He was offered a tempting opportunity in Uganda, and also the professorship of agriculture at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad. Fortunately for Nyasaland the Governor, Sir Geoffrey Colby, would not hear of his leaving and, against precedent, promoted Kettlewell to Deputy Director of Agriculture. Within a year he was promoted again, and he became Director of Agriculture in 1951. At forty-one, he was an unusually young Director (a mere six years earlier he had been playing full-back for Nyasaland) and this gave him enough time to exert a vigorous and lasting influence on the agricultural and conservation policies of the country. His busy life included ex officio membership of the Legislative Council and, more importantly, of the Governor's inner cabinet, the Executive Council. In 1955 he was appointed CMG in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.
In 1958 Dr Banda, later to declare himself 'President for Life', returned to Nyasaland after forty years abroad (he was barely able to speak the national language, in which Kettlewell, of course, was totally fluent), and the rapid slide towards independence began. In a move designed to facilitate the transition to a ministerial system of government, Kettlewell was appointed Secretary for Natural Resources. He was a staunchly principled minister, who did not take kindly to what he saw as the subversion of the true interests of the African people and their lands by self-serving politicians, including those of the Macmillan government in London. Natural Resources was such a vital ministry that Banda wanted it for himself and it was not long before he took it over from Kettlewell. Kettlewell soldiered on with a less important portfolio, keeping it warm until one of Banda's men should be ready to assume it. Finally, in 1962, Nyasaland became Malawi and Kettlewell became, in his own words, 'a constitutional casualty'.
Men of Kettlewell's calling and generation wore their upper lips stiff (a private wartime memoir laconically describes how his painful abscess was summarily treated by the MO yanking the tooth out behind a bush), but even he confessed to being overcome and unable to speak when his old department bade its emotional farewell to him and Margaret in 1962. They returned to England and settled down to a new life in the Cotswolds. Kettlewell was only fifty-two, and for sixteen years he continued with somewhat familiar work under the private banner of Hunting Technical Services, Britain's leading firm of specialist consultants in tropical land use. His particular task was to build up connections in South-East Asia and his missions took him to Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Borneo and the Kathmandu valley of Nepal. He also served as chairman of Oxfam's Africa Committee for ten years.
The work at Hunting's was part-time and Kettlewell gradually eased himself into retirement. He apprenticed himself to an ancient and monosyllabic Cotswold dry-stone waller and built a stout wall round the beautiful garden that Margaret designed and tended with professional skill (she had earlier taken in hand the Nyasaland Botanic Gardens with spectacular results). He resumed his hobby as a joiner and turner and filled their house, and those of their children, with fine polished furniture made from seasoned Mlombwa hardwood, lovingly brought with him in 1962 from a mission sawmill in the heart of Nyasaland. He was devoted to, and proud of, his children and grandchildren, and his creations included a splendid tree house in which two children could sleep in comfort. His old age was happy and productive, and he retained to the end a serious interest in nature, history, biography, science and all things African.
I have known Dick Kettlewell since my earliest childhood in Nyasaland, and for me he has always been living proof that it is possible for a man to be utterly trustworthy and straight in all his dealings. In these days of 'sleaze' in high places, he would not have known the meaning of the word. There is a line of John Betjeman that might have been written for him in his last years: 'Old men who never cheated, never doubted . . .'
A. G. Lowndes on levels of natural selection: a historical vignette
While a pupil at Marlborough College in the early 1930s, my father was taught biology by the renowned A. G. Lowndes (1885-1956). Lowndes had the habit of lapsing into long, musing monologues, thinking aloud in front of his pupils, and some time in 1932, aged seventeen, my father wrote down part of one of these lessons. When, many years later, he showed me the notebook in which he had recorded it, I was immediately struck by the passage reproduced below, in which Lowndes seems to have been tentatively approaching a remarkably modern-sounding understanding of natural selection acting at the level of the gene.
I wrote the notes that introduce the transcript in March 1985.
As in any verbatim transcript of the spoken word, there is much repetition and some non sequiturs. I have made no attempt to edit these out, because I regard this as a document which might be of interest to historians of evolutionary ideas, and I am anxious not to 'improve' the document with the wisdom of hindsight. All that I have done is to insert '. . .' in places where something has obviously been left out. Whether my father improved it at the time we do not know, but he seems, on the contrary, to have been at pains to reproduce even obvious infelicities and repetitions, probably for reasons of mischievous humour. Lowndes was a 'character', whose pupils enjoyed imitating his mannerisms, and they prided themselves on their ability to take down his monologues verbatim.
There is a strong suggestion, for instance in the constant reiteration of the unnecessary clause 'It's quite true . . .', that Lowndes was groping painfully for understanding of difficult ideas. One of these ideas, the importance of pleiotropy in natural selection, has been current among biologists since Fisher; but my father's notes indicate that Lowndes was in the process of grasping, as early as 1932, another idea that many biologists associate with much later times, and that I was to summarize in 1976 under the catchphrase of 'the selfish gene'. Lowndes put these two ideas together, in a prescient explanation for apparent imperfections, for example the long legs of Tipulid flies. His discussion of the possible meiotic drive-like consequences of competition among pollen grains could have been inspired by the related passage in Haldane's The Causes of Evolution, which came out in that year, but it still sounds surprisingly modern. Lowndes would almost certainly have possessed this book. My father's copy (which I now possess) is inscribed as a botany prize awarded to him in December 1932, and it was presumably chosen at the instigation of Lowndes.
There is no suggestion in the notes that Lowndes thought that he was being innovative or original. He seems to have thought that he was simply exploring logical consequences of ideas that were then in the air. My own view is that that is exactly what he was doing - Fisher's major book, as well as Haldane's, was published around this time - but it took the majority of biologists another forty years to appreciate those logical consequences. That Fisher and Haldane themselves appreciated them there is no doubt, but they are well known to have been ahead of their time. What is not clear to me is whether Lowndes was ahead of his time too; or whether, which is in a way a more interesting possibility, 'selfish gene' ways of thinking enjoyed general currency among informed biologists in the early 1930s owing to the influence of Fisher and Haldane, but were subsequently forgotten by most, needing to be forcefully revived in the 1960s and 1970s.
The transcript follows.
Darwin applied natural selection to whole races. Not to the separate parts. The modern tendency is to apply natural selection to genes.
How far is there a struggle for existence among these pollen grains? A struggle for existence therefore exists within one individual plant.
What is the determining factor? Of course the rapidity of growth. Now if the rapidity of growth is carried by an individual gene - we'll say - may be, may not be. Now that rapidity of growth may be linked or at any rate carried in the same chromosome as a number of other factors some of which may be advantageous, some disadvantageous. Now if that factor of rapidity of growth in the pollen tube is linked with a rust resisting factor of course all well and good, but it may be linked with just the opposite. And you see that may explain some of these strange abnormalities which one finds, and that may possibly be an explanation for several things, some of these things show . . . which Darwin could not think at all . . . one strange anomaly is the enormous length of the legs of the Tipulidae. Apparently, they are perfectly useless to the animal, and the question is how can you explain it. Well supposing a drought resisting factor was linked with is linked with a factor for long legs, or possibly an advantageous coloration is also linked perhaps with long legs then perhaps the survival of the one may necessitate the survival of the other. A case of that has actually been worked out and Haldane mentions it - it has been worked out for Oenothera, the evening primrose. It is quite possible it's quite true that you might get some quite good crossings over . . . antagonistic theory. That is the rather modern theory of natural selection, applied not to the individuals but to the individual genes . . . not in degenerate Copepods, perhaps in Ostracods, yes it's quite true you do get . . . among the parasitic species. Well it's quite true it may lead to a 101 different questions, it's a question of natural selection of genes. I don't know, why should you get the long legs coming shorter, not suddenly coming shorter, it's quite true yes the long legs is linked probably with something else. It's quite true yes that if you had the long leg mutation linked with another gene it's quite true that a gene only carries one fact, a chromosome (?) it's quite true obviously does not.
Well it might be but I cannot see under what circumstances it might be. Though it's quite true that strong flying gene is prevalent among short legged forms.
My father's notebook ends at this point.
Homage to Chippi: the egg song
Here, in fond memory of my kindly old prep school master H. M. Letchworth, alias Slush, alias Chippi, are the words of the best song he taught us at Scout camp. Some forty years after my Chafyn Grove days it was given a very accomplished rendition by Ann Mackay and her piano accompanist at my father's ninetieth birthday celebrations in the Master's Lodgings at Balliol College Oxford in 1995.
Max Welton's braes are bonny
Where stands the Grand Hotel
And it's there I'd an egg for my breakfast
And I knew when I opened the shell
That it was an egg of the Old Brigade
Though it was changed and altered
There it lay. Quite undismayed
In accents low it faltered:
'I'm humming. I'm humming.
I'm not new laid I know.'
And so, unto the gasping waiter
I said 'Joe . . .
I shouldn't have thought this egg had been laid
For months and months and months.
Its call-up papers have been delayed
For months and months and months.
I should even have thought it was laid
By some extinct dodo,
Ten, twenty, thirty, forty
Fifty years ago.'
Just then a small chicken popped up and cried
So in my best French I replied
'Ze same to you.
'My muzzair you know lives over zair
'With mademoiselle from Armentières.
'Inky pinky parlez vous.
So we pushed it through the window.
So we pushed it through the window.
So we pushed it throoough the window . . .
And the waiter went to the grocer's shop
Just to find the fellow who'd supplied him.
With his father's sword he had girded on
He slew that egg that ran beside him.
There it lay
Till next day,
And when the dustman came to clear the bits away
Egg shells he saw
He wrapped it up in his tarpaulin jacket.
And said for his tea it would do.
He ate it; and early next morning
His widow his club money drew.
So, Rule Britannia
No matter what you've paid.
Eggs are never never never
Quite new laid.
Mentor of a lifetime: Mike Cullen, 1927-2001
I quoted earlier in the text (pages 172-4) from the eulogy I gave at Mike Cullen's memorial service in Wadham College Chapel, Oxford, on 13 October 2001; but this extraordinary man, the epitome of personal and intellectual generosity, deserves that I reproduce the entire address here.
Many people see the years of the Tinbergen group at Oxford as a golden age of ethology, beginning when Niko arrived from the Netherlands in 1950, and culminating in his Nobel Prize of 1973. It might surprise outsiders to know that many insiders would rate Mike Cullen the equal of Niko himself in contributing to that golden age. By the time I arrived, in the early 1960s, I would go as far as to say that Mike had become the more important influence. This continued, though obviously to a lesser extent, even after Mike moved from zoology to psychology, and we all moved from 13 Bevington Road into the present concrete building, now to be renamed the Tinbergen Building.
Mike's most extraordinary personal quality, as I am sure everybody will say today in their different ways, was his generosity with his time and his talents, and I shall of course return to this too.
But there was much more. He was a shining intelligence (who listened to those less gifted). His knowledge was huge (though he flattered us by pretending we shared it). He was a first-class field naturalist, with a deep knowledge of zoology, and the well-rounded classical cultivation characteristic of his age and education - and not to be found today. His mathematical facility was a priceless resource to the rest of us, and it spurred his inventiveness in finding ways of quantifying everyday things, a habit which we all caught from him to our lifelong advantage. It also made the famous Block Practical a formative experience for generations of undergraduates. They went out into the world equipped to turn observations into numbers, and hence something you could analyse and draw proper inferences from.
The Block Practical lasted a fortnight and all other work was suspended for it. On the first day, he would give an introductory pep-talk. One year he decided to goad the undergraduates into developing their powers of observation - in a lesson that they would not forget. Indeed, nobody would forget it. What he did was to pretend to go mad during the course of the lecture. I forget how he was dressed. Red sweater, obviously, but perhaps his shirt was hanging out. I don't think he was wearing a false nose, but there were various other things wrong with his appearance. The lecture began sensibly enough but, as it progressed, he gradually introduced more and more odd mutations. Stray words or sentences that didn't belong. Lunatic twitches of increasing severity. And he rounded the performance off by seizing everything on the bench and throwing them at me to catch - chalk, board-dusters and, I rather think, expensive portable tape recorders as well, although my own powers of observation may have deserted me at this point.
Legends of Mike's eccentricity abound, but I think the following story, which I borrow with thanks from Jon Erichsen, says less about eccentricity than about his eternally youthful scientific curiosity. Jon and Mike once went to Stratford, to see The Taming of the Shrew. The scenery designer had come up with a cunning lighting effect, to create the illusion of rutted cart tracks on the stage. Even with his binoculars (which he also used in seminars to scrutinize slides of data ) Mike simply could not work out how the cart track illusion was done. At some point, Jon became vaguely aware that Mike was no longer at his side, but he thought little of it. Then he noticed a shadowy figure, flitting about among the footlights. It was, of course, Mike, determined to get to the bottom of this tantalizing visual illusion.
His sceptical curiosity was famous - and feared, despite his equally famed kindness. The weekly seminars which Niko convened on Friday evenings were greatly looked forward to by everybody except the speaker, apprehensive about the Cullen intelligence. But Mike's criticism was never destructive. The very contrary. And at a personal level he was extraordinarily sympathetic. His constructive generosity was the most outstanding of his many qualities, and I said I would return to it.
He did not publish many papers himself, yet he worked prodigiously hard, both in teaching and research. He was probably the most sought-after tutor in the entire Zoology Department. The rest of his time - he was always in a hurry and worked a hugely long day - was devoted to research. But seldom his own research. Everybody who knew him has the same story to tell. All the obituaries told it, in revealingly similar terms.
You would have a problem with your research. You knew exactly where to go for help, and there he would be for you. I see the scene as yesterday. The lunchtime conversation in the crowded little kitchen at Bevington Road, the wiry, boyish figure in the red sweater, slightly hunched like a spring wound up with intense intellectual energy, sometimes rocking back and forth with concentration. The deeply intelligent eyes, understanding what you meant even before the words came out. The back of the envelope to aid explanation, the occasionally sceptical, quizzical tilt of the eyebrows, under the untidy hair. Then he would have to rush off - he always rushed everywhere - perhaps for a tutorial, and he would seize his biscuit tin by its wire handles, and disappear. But next morning the answer to your problem would arrive, in Mike's small, distinctive handwriting, two pages, often some algebra, diagrams, a key reference to the literature, sometimes an apt verse of his own composition, or a fragment of Latin or classical Greek. Always encouragement.
We were grateful, but not grateful enough. If we had thought about it we would have realized, he must have been working on that mathematical model of my research all evening. And it isn't only me for whom he does this. Everybody in Bevington Road gets the same treatment. And not just his own students. I was officially Niko's student, not Mike's. Mike took me on, without payment and without official recognition, when my research became more mathematical than Niko could handle. When the time came for me to write my thesis, it was Mike Cullen who read it, criticized it, helped me polish every line. And all this, while he was doing the same thing for his own official students.
When (we all should have wondered) does he get time for ordinary family life? When does he get time for his own research? No wonder he so seldom published anything. No wonder he never wrote his long-awaited book on animal communication. In truth, he should have been joint author of just about every paper that came out of 13 Bevington Road during that golden period. In fact, his name appears on virtually none of them - except in the Acknowledgments section. Conversely, one of the cleverest papers which he did publish bears two other names, of colleagues in America. Neither contributed to the research at all. One had simply got the grant which paid for Mike's visit to her lab, where he did the research. The other was a friend of hers who was coming up for tenure at his home university, and needed all the publications he could get.
The worldly success of scientists is judged - for promotion or honours - by their published papers. Mike did not rate highly on this index. But if he had consented to add his name to his students' publications, as readily as modern supervisors insist on putting their names on papers to which they contribute much less, Mike would have been a conventionally successful scientist, lauded with conventional honours. As it is, he was a brilliantly successful scientist in a far deeper and truer sense. And I think we know which kind of scientist we really admire.
Oxford sadly lost him to Australia. Years later, in Melbourne, at a party for me as visiting lecturer, I was standing, probably rather stiffly, with a drink in my hand. Suddenly, a familiar figure shot into the room, in a hurry as ever. The rest of us were in suits, but not this familiar figure. The years vanished away. Everything was the same - though he must have been well into his sixties, he seemed still to be in his thirties - the glow of boyish enthusiasm, even the red sweater. Next day he drove me to the coast to see his beloved penguins, stopping on the way to look at giant Australian earthworms, many feet long. We tired the sun with talking - not, I think, about old times and old friends, and certainly not about ambition, grant-getting and papers in Nature, but about new science and new ideas. It was a perfect day, the last day I saw him.
We may know other scientists as intelligent as Mike Cullen - though not many. We may know other scientists who were as generous in support - though vanishingly few. But I declare, we have known nobody who had so much to give, combined with so much generosity in giving it.
The nearest we got to Darwin: eulogy for W. D. 'Bill' Hamilton, 1936-2000
From the time when I was first introduced to his early work on kin selection to the writing of The Selfish Gene and beyond, Bill Hamilton was one of my greatest inspirations - and in later years a close colleague and dear friend. In 2000 I gave the eulogy at his memorial service in the chapel of our joint academic home, New College Oxford.
Those of us who wish we had met Charles Darwin can console ourselves: we may have met the nearest equivalent that the late twentieth century had to offer. Yet so quiet, so absurdly modest was he that I dare say some members of this college were somewhat bemused to read his obituaries - and discover quite what it was they had harboured among them all this time. The obituaries were astonishingly unanimous. I'm going to read a sentence or two from them, and I would add that this is not a biased sample of obituaries. I am going to quote from 100 per cent of the obituaries that have so far come to my notice.
'Bill Hamilton, who has died aged 63 after weeks in intensive care following a biological expedition to the Congo, was the primary theoretical innovator in modern Darwinian biology, responsible for the shape of the subject today' (Alan Grafen in the Guardian).
'The most influential evolutionary biologist of his generation' (Matt Ridley in the Telegraph).
'One of the towering figures of modern biology' (Natalie Angier in the New York Times).
'One of the greatest evolutionary theorists since Darwin. Certainly, where social theory based on natural selection is concerned, he was easily our deepest and most original thinker' (Robert Trivers in Nature).
'One of the foremost evolutionary theorists of the twentieth century' (David Haig, Naomi Pierce and E. O. Wilson in Science).
'A good candidate for the title of most distinguished Darwinian since Darwin' (that was my offering, in the Independent, reprinted in Oxford Today this week).
'One of the leaders of what has been called "the second Darwinian revolution"' (John Maynard Smith in The Times: Maynard Smith had earlier called him, in language too informal to be repeated in The Times obituary, 'The only bloody genius we've got').
Finally, Olivia Judson in The Economist: 'All his life, Bill Hamilton played with dynamite. As a boy, he nearly died when a bomb he was building exploded too soon, removing the tips of several fingers and lodging shrapnel in his lung. As an adult, his dynamite was more judiciously placed. He blew up established notions, and erected in their stead an edifice of ideas stranger, more original and more profound than that of any other biologist since Darwin.'
Admittedly, the largest gap in the theory left by Darwin had already been plugged by R. A. Fisher and the other 'neo-Darwinian' masters of the 1930s and 1940s. But their 'Modern Synthesis' left a number of important problems unsolved - in many cases even unrecognized - and most of these were not cleared up until after 1960. It is certainly fair to say that Hamilton was the dominant thinker of this second wave of neo-Darwinism, although to describe him as a solver of problems somehow doesn't do justice to his positively creative imagination.
He frequently would bury, in throwaway lines, ideas that lesser theorists would have given their eye teeth to have originated. Bill and I were once talking termites at coffee time in the Department of Zoology. We were especially wondering what evolutionary pressure had driven the termites to become so extremely social, and Hamilton started praising 'Stephen Bartz's theory'. 'But Bill,' I protested, 'that isn't Bartz's theory. It's your theory. You published it seven years earlier.' Gloomily, he denied it. So I ran to the library, found the relevant volume of the Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, and shoved under his nose his own buried paragraph. He read it, then conceded, in his most Eeyoreish voice, that yes, it did appear to be his own theory after all. 'But Bartz expressed it better.' As a final footnote to this story, among the people whom Bartz acknowledged in his paper, 'for helpful advice and criticism', was - W. D. Hamilton!
Similarly, Bill published his theory of the sex ratio of honeybees, not in a Note to Nature devoted to the topic, as a normally ambitious scientist would have done, but buried in a review of somebody else's book. This book review, by the way, carried the unmistakeably Hamiltonian title, 'Gamblers since Life Began: Barnacles, Aphids, Elms'.
If his famous theory of kinship occupied the early part of Bill's career, the second half was dominated by his obsession with parasites, and his theory of how they might answer the greatest outstanding riddle of Darwinism, the problem of the existence of sex; and, as a spinoff, his theory of sexual selection, proposed and tested in collaboration with Marlene Zuk - who, by the way, has flown all the way from Los Angeles to be here today. Bill would have been very touched.
The two towering achievements for which Hamilton is best known were the genetic theory of kinship, and the parasite theory of sex. But, alongside these two major obsessions, he also found time to answer, or play a major role in the cooperative answering of, a whole set of other important questions left over from the neo-Darwinian synthesis. These questions include:
Why do we grow old, and die of old age?
Why do population sex ratios sometimes depart from the normally expected 50/50? In the course of this short paper, he was one of the first to introduce the Theory of Games to evolutionary biology, a development that was of course to prove so endlessly fruitful in John Maynard Smith's hands.
Can active spite, as opposed to ordinary selfishness, be favoured by natural selection?
Why do so many animals flock, school, or herd together when at risk from predators? This paper had another very characteristic title: Geometry for the Selfish Herd.
Why do animals and plants go to such lengths to disperse their progeny far and wide, even when the places they are dispersing to are inferior to the place where they already live? This work was done jointly with Robert May, now the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, and President Elect of the Royal Society, who is here today.
In a fundamentally selfish Darwinian world, how can cooperation evolve between unrelated individuals? This work was done jointly with the social scientist Robert Axelrod.
Why do autumn leaves turn so conspicuously red or brown? In a typically audacious - yet compelling - piece of theorizing, Hamilton suspected that the bright colour is a warning given by the tree, a warning to insects not to lay their eggs on this tree, a warning backed up by toxins just as a wasp's yellow and black stripes are backed up by a sting.
This extraordinary idea is typical of that youthful inventiveness which seemed, if anything, to increase as he grew older. It was really quite recently that he proposed a proper theory for how the hitherto rather ridiculed theory of 'Gaia' could actually be made workable in a true Darwinian model. At his burial on the edge of Wytham Wood this March, his devoted companion Luisa Bozzi spoke some beautiful words over the open grave, in which she made allusion to the astonishing central idea of this paper - that clouds are actually adaptations, made by micro-organisms for their own dispersal. She quoted Bill's remarkable article 'No Stone Unturned: A Bug-Hunter's Life and Death', in which he expressed a wish, when he died, to be laid out on the forest floor in the Amazon jungle and interred by burying beetles as food for their larvae:
Later, in their children, reared with care by the horned parents out of fist-sized balls moulded from my flesh, I will escape. No worm for me, or sordid fly: rearranged and multiple, I will at last buzz from the soil like bees out of a nest - indeed, buzz louder than bees, almost like a swarm of motor bikes. I shall be borne, beetle by flying beetle, out into the Brazilian wilderness beneath the stars.
Luisa read this, then added her own elegy, inspired by his cloud theory:
Bill, now your body is lying in the Wytham woods, but from here you will reach again your beloved forests. You will live not only in a beetle, but in billions of spores of fungi and algae. Brought by the wind higher up into the troposphere, all of you will form the clouds, and wandering across the oceans, will fall down and fly up again and again; till eventually a drop of rain will join you to the water of the flooded forest of the Amazon. 
Hamilton was garlanded eventually with honours, but in a way this only underlined how slow the world was to recognize him. He won many prizes, including the Crafoord Prize and the Kyoto Prize. Yet his disturbingly candid autobiography reveals a young man tormented by self-doubt and loneliness. Not only did he doubt himself; he was led to doubt even whether the questions that obsessively drove him were of any interest to anybody else at all. Not surprisingly, this even occasionally led him to doubt his sanity.
The experience gave him a lifelong sympathy for underdogs, which may have motivated his recent championing of an unfashionable, not to say reviled, theory of the origin of human AIDS. As you may know, it was this that was to take him on his fateful journey to Africa this year. We shall hear more of this final journey to the Congo later this afternoon.
Unlike other major prize winners, Bill really needed the money. He was the despair of his financial advisers. He was only interested in money for the good that it could do, usually to others. He was hopeless at accruing the stuff, and he gave away much of what he had. It was entirely characteristic of his financial astuteness that he left a will that was generous but - unwitnessed. Equally characteristic that he bought a house in Michigan at the top of the market, and later sold it at the bottom of the market. Not only did Bill's investment fail to keep up with inflation, he actually made a substantial loss, and could not afford to buy a house in Oxford. Fortunately the university had a nice house in its gift in Wytham village, and, with Dick Southwood, as ever, quietly taking care of him behind the scenes, Bill and his family found a place where they could thrive.
Every day he cycled into Oxford from Wytham, at enormous speed. So unbecoming was this speed to his great shock of grey hair, it may have accounted for his numerous cycle accidents. Motorists didn't believe that a man of his apparent age could possibly cycle so fast, and they miscalculated, with unfortunate results. I have been unable to document the widely repeated story that on one occasion he shot into a car, landed on the back seat and said, 'Please drive me to the hospital.' But I have found reliable confirmation of the story that his startup grant from the Royal Society, a cheque for £15,000, blew out of his bicycle basket at high speed.
I first met Bill Hamilton when he visited Oxford, in about 1969, to give a lecture to the Biomathematics Group, and I went along to get my first glimpse of my intellectual hero. I won't say it was a let-down, but he was not, to say the least, a charismatic speaker. There was a blackboard that completely covered one wall. And Bill made the most of it. By the end of the seminar, there wasn't a square inch of wall that was not smothered in equations. Since the blackboard went all the way down to the floor, he had to get on his hands and knees in order to write down there, and this made his murmuring voice even more inaudible. Finally he stood up and surveyed his handiwork with a slight smile. After a long pause, he pointed to a particular equation (aficionados may like to know that it was the now famous 'Price Equation') and said: 'I really like that one.'
I think all his friends have their own stories to illustrate his shy and idiosyncratic charm, and these will doubtless grow into legends over time. Here's one that I have vouched for as I was the witness myself. He appeared for lunch in New College one day, wearing a large paperclip attached to his glasses. This seemed eccentric, even for Bill, so I asked him: 'Bill, why are you wearing a paperclip on your glasses?' He looked solemnly at me. 'Do you really want to know?' he said in his most mournful tone, though I could see his mouth twitching with the effort of suppressing a smile. 'Yes,' I said enthusiastically, 'I really really want to know.' 'Well', he said, 'I find that my glasses sit heavily on my nose when I am reading. So I use the clip to fasten them to a lock of my hair which takes some of the weight.' Then as I laughed, he laughed too, and I can still see that wonderful smile as his face lit up with laughing at himself.
On another occasion, he came to a dinner party at our house. Most of the guests were standing around drinking before dinner, but Bill had disappeared into the next room and was investigating my bookshelves. We gradually became aware of a sort of low murmuring sound coming from the next room. 'Help.' 'Er, Help . . . I think. Er, yes, Help! Help.' We finally realized that, in his own uniquely understated way, Bill was saying the equivalent of 'HEEEELLLLP!!!!!!'. So we rushed in there, to find him, like Inspector Clouseau with the billiard cues, struggling desperately to balance books which were falling all around him as the shelves collapsed in his arms.
Any other scientist of his distinction would expect to be offered a first-class air fare and a generous honorarium before agreeing to go and give a lecture abroad. Bill was invited to a conference in Russia. Characteristically, he forgot to notice that they weren't offering any air fare at all, let alone an honorarium, and he ended up not only paying for his own ticket but obliged to bribe his own way out of the country. Worse, his taxi didn't have enough petrol in its tank to get him to Moscow airport, so Bill had to help the taxi driver as he siphoned petrol out of his cousin's car. As for the conference itself, it turned out when Bill got there that there was no venue for it. Instead, the delegates went for walks in the woods. From time to time, they would reach a clearing and would stop for somebody to present a lecture. Then they'd move on and look for another clearing. Bill had the impression this was an automatic precaution to avoid bugging by the KGB. He had brought slides for his lecture, so they had to go for a night -time ramble, lugging a projector along. They eventually found an old barn and projected his slides on its whitewashed wall. Somehow I cannot imagine any other Crafoord Prizewinner getting himself into this situation.
His absent-mindedness was legendary, but was completely unaffected. As Olivia Judson wrote in The Economist, his duties at Oxford required him to give only one undergraduate lecture per year, and he usually forgot to give that. Martin Birch reports that he met Bill one day in the Department of Zoology, and apologized for forgetting to go to Bill's research seminar the day before. 'That's all right,' said Bill. 'As a matter of fact, I forgot it myself.'
I made it a habit, whenever there was a good seminar or research lecture on in the department, to go to Bill's room five minutes before it started, to tell him about it and encourage him to go. He would look up courteously from whatever he was absorbed in, listen to what I had to say, then rise enthusiastically and accompany me to the seminar. It was no use reminding him more than five minutes ahead of time, or sending him written memos. He would simply become reabsorbed in whatever was his current obsession, and forget everything else.
For he was an obsessive. This is surely a large contributor to his success. There were other important ingredients. I love Robert Trivers's musical analogy: 'While the rest of us speak and think in single notes, he thought in chords.' That is exactly right.
He was also a wonderful naturalist - he almost seemed to prefer the company of naturalists to that of theorists. Yet he was a much better mathematician than most biologists, and he had the mathematician's way of visualizing the abstract and pared-down essence of a situation before he went on to model it.
Though many of his papers were mathematical, Bill was also a splendidly individual prose stylist. Here's how, in his auto-anthology, Narrow Roads of Gene Land (1996), he introduces the reprinting of his 1966 paper on 'the moulding of senescence by natural selection'.
He first transcribes for us a marginal note which he wrote on his own copy of his 1966 paper:
Thus ageing animal should climb down his evolutionary tree: young man's youthful features in trends which made old gorilla.
This leads his older self into a magnificently Hamiltonian set-piece:
Therefore, one last confession. I, too, am probably coward enough to give funds for 'elixir' gerontology if anyone could persuade me that there is hope: at the same time I want there to be none so that I will not be tempted. Elixirs seem to me an anti-eugenical aspiration of the worst kind and to be no way to create a world our descendants can enjoy. Thus thinking, I grimace, rub two unrequestedly bushy eyebrows with the ball of a happily still-opposable thumb, snort through nostrils that each day more resemble the horse-hair bursts of an old Edwardian sofa, and, with my knuckles not yet touching the ground, though nearly, galumph onwards to my next paper.
His poetic imagination is constantly surfacing in little asides, even in his most difficult papers. And, as you would expect, he was a great lover of poets, and carried much poetry in his head, especially A. E. Housman. Perhaps he identified his young self with the melancholy protagonist of A Shropshire Lad. In his review of my own first book - and can you imagine my joy at receiving a review from such a quarter? - he quoted these lines:
From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.
Now - for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart -
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.
Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind's twelve quarters
I take my endless way.
He ended the same review by quoting Wordsworth's well-known lines on the statue of Newton in the Antechapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. Bill didn't mean it this way, of course, but the last words of the poem fit him as well as they fit Newton, and I want to leave you with them.
. . . a mind forever
Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.
Hamilton and Housman: the immortal gene
Ever generous, ever inventive, Bill Hamilton once gave me a page of his lecture notes on which he had adapted a poem by A. E. Housman, 'The Immortal Part', to incorporate the central idea that underpinned The Selfish Gene. In homage to Bill, and to Housman, one of his, and my, favourite poets, I reproduce it here.
The Cornish connection: the courtship of Dr James Wearne
This portrait is of my great-great-grandfather, Dr James Wearne of Helston in Cornwall. Preserved in the back of the frame is a letter that he wrote to his sister Mrs Hocking in 1838, about his courtship of Miss Philippa Vivian. They did eventually marry, and their son was my great-grandfather Dr Walter Wearne. James Wearne's father was Roger Wearne, customs officer of St Ives, who had a special frock coat made with extra large pockets to carry the contraband.
What follows is a transcript of the letter from James to his sister.
Thursday morning, 16 August 1838
My dear Sister,
When I last saw you I had intended to have waited for your opinion with respect to Miss Vivian before I proceeded any farther - but my good genius tempting me in the shape of a very splendid black horse the property of Squire Boase, to take an excursion to Roseworthy, I arrived there in time to find Miss Vivian just proceeding to take a ride, when your humble servant immediately accompanied her and her brother and cousin, and finding an opportunity I did no better nor worse than . . . well, she said that she could give me no kind of answer on so slight an acquaintance but that she should tell her mother for me when she went home - the next day there is to be a party at the Mount and in the afternoon I found Miss Vivian there. I then began the business again and again but with no better success - except that she said that if she had made up her mind not to accept me she should tell me so at once - and that her mother and father were quite agreeable - however the little woman I think seemed very independent but yet there was good sense too in not being driven to close the bargain too hastily - She says that her father has something to say to me when I visit Roseworthy again which will be tomorrow week - I thought myself twice as clever a fellow as I am - for when I commenced business I was like a man going to buy a cow - and she forsooth behaved as if I had not offered but half a price - I feel a little humiliated for the first time by a girl, for after saying everything I could think of within the bounds of truth I was sent home like a great schoolboy that could not tell his lesson and for the first time in my life walked a horse nine miles on a stretch - Louisa was at the Mount and was the only person there who knew what had taken place the night before - She said that she thought it all right - I believe that she, Philippa thought me rather remiss in the small attentions which I don't understand, and I fancy that I looked rather Satanic when any person but myself paid them - I believe she does not know the ways of the heart yet - she fancies that I am but a cool admirer I can see that - but at least the truth is that I admire her more the more I see her - So you see I have gone pele-mele into the affair which I hope will render me a happier and a better man.
With love to all I am my dear sister
Your affectionate brother
PS If I had time I would write all day.
 Bill's son and daughter-in-law.
 J. B. S. Haldane, The Causes of Evolution (London, Longmans, 1932).
 R. A. Fisher, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1930).
 This is a highly disputable statement, notwithstanding the subtitle of the Origin, but it doesn't diminish the interest of what follows.
 The lesson had begun with an experiment in which pollen grains on Ranunculus flamula stigmas were counted. The mean number of pollen grains per stigma was 55. Lowndes seems to have been sidetracked into his musings in the course of discussing a routine laboratory experiment.
 Tune: 'Annie Laurie'.
 Tune: 'Boys of the Old Brigade' - the English slow march popularized by Peter Dawson, not the Irish Republican song.
 Tune: 'Old Black Joe' (the bowdlerized version 'Poor Old Joe' may be more familiar to some).
 Tune: 'Mademoiselle from Armentières'.
 Tune: 'So early in the morning'
 Tune: 'The Minstrel Boy'
 Tune: 'Bay of Biscay'
 Recitative, free tempo (transposed to C major): GGG (up octave) GFEEEEDDC.
 Tune: 'Tarpaulin Jacket'.
 Tune: 'Rule Britannia' - obviously!
 Published in the Times Literary Supplement, 11 September 1992.
 At the memorial service, Luisa read both these passages herself.
 Read at the memorial service by Ruth Hamilton.
 The handwriting at the top reads: 'Richard, Judy W-W asked me for a copy of the notes I made in concluding my talk. I thought you might like a copy too of this last page of my notes! Bill'