Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 421-430

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Mathematizing Darwin

  • A. W. F. EdwardsAffiliated withGonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge Email author 


Ernst Mayr called the first part of the evolutionary synthesis the ‘Fisherian synthesis’ on account of the dominant role played by R.A. Fisher in forging a mathematical theory of natural selection together with J.B.S. Haldane and Sewall Wright in the decade 1922–1932. It is here argued that Fisher’s contribution relied on a close reading of Darwin’s work to a much greater extent than did the contributions of Haldane and Wright, that it was synthetic in contrast to their analytic approach and that it was greatly influenced by his friendship with the Darwin family, particularly with Charles’s son Leonard.


Darwin Fisher Haldane Wright Evolution Mathematical theory of natural selection