Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 717–761 | Cite as

R. A. Fisher, Lancelot Hogben, and the Origin(s) of Genotype–Environment Interaction

  • James TaberyEmail author


This essay examines the origin(s) of genotype–environment interaction, or G × E. “Origin(s)” and not “the origin” because the thesis is that there were actually two distinct concepts of G × E at this beginning: a biometric concept, or G × EB, and a developmental concept, or G × ED. R. A. Fisher, one of the founders of population genetics and the creator of the statistical analysis of variance, introduced the biometric concept as he attempted to resolve one of the main problems in the biometric tradition of biology – partitioning the relative contributions of nature and nurture responsible for variation in a population. Lancelot Hogben, an experimental embryologist and also a statistician, introduced the developmental concept as he attempted to resolve one of the main problems in the developmental tradition of biology – determining the role that developmental relationships between genotype and environment played in the generation of variation. To argue for this thesis, I outline Fisher and Hogben’s separate routes to their respective concepts of G × E; then these separate interpretations of G × E are drawn on to explicate a debate between Fisher and Hogben over the importance of G × E, the first installment of a persistent controversy. Finally, Fisher’s G × EB and Hogben’s G × ED are traced beyond their own work into mid-20th century population and developmental genetics, and then into the infamous IQ Controversy of the 1970s.


analysis of variance (ANOVA) biometry developmental biology eugenics genetics genotype–environment interaction (G × E) IQ controversy Lancelot Hogben nature–nurture debate population genetics R. A. Fisher 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



I am indebted to a number of individuals for enlightening conversations about G × E: Avshalom Caspi, Roderick Cooper, Gilbert Gottlieb, Terrie Moffitt, Robert Plomin, and Michael Rutter. Also, André Ariew, Paul Griffiths, Leslie Hogben, Sandra Mitchell, Robert Olby, Kathryn Plaisance, Michael Pogue-Geile, and Kenneth Schaffner read portions or earlier drafts of this work and offered invaluable feedback. Archivists at the University of Adelaide Library helpfully made available to me correspondence between R. A. Fisher and Lancelot Hogben along with the image of Fisher. Versions of this article were presented at the History of Science Society’s annual meeting (November 2005, Minneapolis, MN), the British Society for the History of Science’s annual meeting (July 2005, Leeds, UK), the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology’s biannual meeting (July 2005, Guelph, CA), the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science’s annual meeting (May 2005, London, CA), and Beyond Dichotomies, Across Boundaries (April 2005, Minneapolis, MN). Conversations with a number of␣conference participants helped me to clarify ideas on the topic. Finally, three anonymous referees provided me with insightful comments and suggestions. Any errors that remain are my own.


  1. Allen, Garland E. 1986. The Eugenics Record Office, Cold Spring Harbor, 1910–1940: An Essay in Institutional History Osiris 2: 225–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, T.W. 1996. R.A. Fisher and Multivariate Analysis Statistical Science 11: 20–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aronson, J.K. 1985. An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses, 1785–1985. Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Barkan, Elazar 1991. Reevaluating Progressive Eugenics: Herbert Spencer Jennings and the 1924 Immigration Legislation Journal of the History of Biology 24: 91–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bennett J.H. (ed.). 1983. Natural Selection, Heredity, and Eugenics: Including Selected Correspondence of R.A. Fisher with Leonard Darwin and Others. Oxford: Clarendon PressGoogle Scholar
  6. Bennett J.H. (ed.). 1990. R. A. Fisher, Statistical Inference and Analysis: Selected Correspondence of R. A. Fisher. Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  7. Blacker, C.P. 1952. Eugenics: Galton and After. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  8. Box, Joan Fisher 1978. R. A. Fisher: The Life of a Scientist. New York: John Wiley and SonsGoogle Scholar
  9. Cochran, William G. 1980. Fisher and the Analysis of Variance. In S. E. Fienberg and D. V. Hinkley (eds.) R.A. Fisher: An Appreciation. New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 17–34Google Scholar
  10. Crews F.A.E., Dakin W.J., Heslop Harrison J., Hogben, Lancelot T., Huxley, Julian S., Johnston J., Marshall F.H.A., Robson, Guy C., Saunders, A.M. Carr, MacLean Thompson J. 1923. The British Journal of Experimental Biology. Science 58: 102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Edwards, A.W.F. 1990. Fisher, W, and the Fundamental Theorem. Theoretical Population Biology 38: 276–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erlingsson, Steindor. 2005. The Rise of Experimental Zoology in Britain in the 1920’s: Hogben, Huxley, Crew, and the Society for Experimental Biology. Unpublished Dissertation, University of ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  13. Falconer, D.S., and Mackay T.F.C. 1996. Introduction to Quantitative Genetics. Essex: Longman Group LimitedGoogle Scholar
  14. Finney, D.J. 1964. Sir Ronald Fisher’s Contributions to Biometric Statistics Biometrics 20: 322–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fisher, Ronald A. 1918. The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 52: 399–433Google Scholar
  16. Fisher, Ronald A. 1925. Statistical Methods for Research Workers. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd LtdGoogle Scholar
  17. Fisher, Ronald A. 1932. Review of Lancelot Hogben’s Genetic Principles in Medicine and Social Science Health and Empire 7: 147–150Google Scholar
  18. Fisher, Ronald A. 1958. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Dover: New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Fisher, Ronald A., and Mackenzie W.A. 1923. Studies in Crop Variation. II. The Manurial Response of Different Potato Varieties. Journal of Agricultural Science 13: 311–320Google Scholar
  20. Gottlieb, Gilbert 1995a. Some Conceptual Deficiencies in ‹Developmental’ Behavior Genetics. Human Development 38: 131–141Google Scholar
  21. Gottlieb, Gilbert 1995b. Reply to Commentaries. Human Development 38: 165–169Google Scholar
  22. Griffiths, Paul E. and Tabery, James. Forthcoming. “Behavioral Genetics and Development: Historical and Conceptual Causes of Controversy.” New Ideas in Psychology Google Scholar
  23. Gurdon, John B., and Nick Hopwood 2000. The Introduction of Xenopus laevis into Developmental Biology: Of Empire, Pregnancy Testing and Ribosomal Genes International Journal of Developmental Biology 44: 43–50Google Scholar
  24. Haldane J.B.S. 1932. A Programme for Human Genetics: A Review of Lancelot Hogben’s Genetic Principles in Medicine and Social Science Nature 129: 345–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hogben, Lancelot 1927. Principles of Evolutionary Biology. Cape Town: JutaGoogle Scholar
  26. Hogben, Lancelot 1931a. The Nature of Living Matter. New York: Alfred A. KnopfGoogle Scholar
  27. Hogben, Lancelot 1931b. The Foundations of Social Biology Economica 31: 4–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hogben, Lancelot 1931c. The Genetic Analysis of Familial Traits. I. Single Gene Substitutions Journal of Genetics 25: 97–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hogben, Lancelot 1932a. Genetic Principles in Medicine and Social Science. New York: Alfred A. KnopfGoogle Scholar
  30. Hogben, Lancelot 1932b. The Genetic Analysis of Familial Traits. II. Double Gene Substitutions, with Special Reference to Hereditary Dwarfism Journal of Genetics 25: 211–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hogben, Lancelot 1932c. The Genetic Analysis of Familial Traits. III. Matings Involving One Parent Exhibiting a Trait Determined by a Single Recessive Gene Substitution with Special Reference to Sex-Linked Conditions Journal of Genetics 25: 293–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hogben, Lancelot 1933a. Nature and Nurture, Being the William Withering Memorial Lectures. London: George Allen and Unwin LtdGoogle Scholar
  33. Hogben, Lancelot 1933b. The Limits of Applicability of Correlation Technique in Human Genetics Journal of Genetics 27: 379–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hogben, Lancelot 1937. Mathematics for the Million. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, IncGoogle Scholar
  35. Hogben, Lancelot 1938. Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery. New York: Alfred A. KnopfGoogle Scholar
  36. Hogben, Lancelot 1998. Lancelot Hogben, Scientific Humanist: An Unauthorized Autobiography. Suffolk: Merlin PressGoogle Scholar
  37. Hogben, Lancelot T., Winton, Frank R. 1922a. The Pigmentary Effector System. I. – Reaction of Frog’s Melanophores to Pituitary Extracts. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 93: 318–329Google Scholar
  38. Hogben, Lancelot T., Frank R. Winton 1922b. The Pigmentary Effector System. II. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 94: 151–162Google Scholar
  39. Hogben, Lancelot T., Frank R. Winton 1923. The Pigmentary Effector System. III. – Colour Response in the Hypophysectomised Frog. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 95: 15–31Google Scholar
  40. Huxley, Julian 1932. Eugenics: A Review of Lancelot Hogben’s Genetic Principles in Medicine and Social Science Eugenics Review 23: 341–344Google Scholar
  41. Huxley, Julian S., Lancelot T. Hogben 1922. Experiments on Amphibian Metamorphosis and Pigment Responses in Relation to Internal Secretions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 93: 36–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jensen, Arthur R. 1969. How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement? Harvard Educational Review 39: 1–123Google Scholar
  43. Jensen, Arthur R. 1972. The IQ Controversy: A Reply to Layzer Cognition 1: 427–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jensen, Arthur R. 1973. Educatability and Group Differences. New York: Harper and Row, PublishersGoogle Scholar
  45. Johnstone D.J. 1987. Tests of Significance Following R.A. Fisher British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38: 481–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kevles, Daniel J. 1995. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  47. Krafka, J. 1920. The Effect of Temperature Upon Facet Number in the Bar-eyed Mutant of Drosophila Journal of General Physiology 2: 409–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Laudan, Larry 1977. Progress and its Problems. Berkeley: University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  49. Layzer, David 1972. Science or Superstition? (A Physical Scientist Looks at the IQ Controversy) Cognition 1: 265–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Layzer, David 1974. Heritability Analyses of IQ Scores: Science or Numerology Science 183: 1259–1266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lewontin, Richard C. 1974. The Analysis of Variance and the Analysis of Causes American Journal of Human Genetics 26: 400–411Google Scholar
  52. Ludmerer, Kenneth M. 1972. Genetics and American Society: A Historical Appraisal. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University PressGoogle Scholar
  53. Lush, Jay L. 1937. Animal Breeding Plans. Ames: Collegiate Press, IncGoogle Scholar
  54. Lush, Jay L. 1943. Animal Breeding Plans Second edition. Ames: Collegiate Press, IncGoogle Scholar
  55. Lynch, Michael, Bruce Walsh 1997. Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, IncGoogle Scholar
  56. MacKenzie, Donald A. 1981. Statistics in Britain: 1865–1930, The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University PressGoogle Scholar
  57. Mahalanobis, P.C. 1964. Professor Ronald Aylmer Fisher Biometrics 20: 238–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Mather, K. 1964. R.A. Fisher’s Work in Genetics Biometrics 20: 330–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mazumdar, Pauline M.H. 1992. Eugenics, Human Genetics, and Human Failings: The Eugenics Society, Its Sources and Its Critics in Britain. London: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  60. Moran P.A.P., Smith C.A.B. 1966. Commentary on R. A. Fisher’s Paper on the Correlation Between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance Eugenics Laboratory Memoirs 41: 1–62Google Scholar
  61. Norton B.J. 1975. Biology and Philosophy: The Methodological Foundations of Biometry Journal of the History of Biology 8: 85–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Norton B.J. 1978. Fisher and the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. In E. G. Forbes (ed.) Human Implications of Scientific Advance. Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of the History of Science. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 481–494Google Scholar
  63. Paul, Diane B. 1995. Controling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities PressGoogle Scholar
  64. Paul, Diane B. 1998. The Politics of Heredity: Essays on Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature–Nurture Debate. Albany: State University of New York PressGoogle Scholar
  65. Pearson, Karl, Alice Lee 1903. On the Laws of Inheritance in Man: I. Inheritance of Physical Characters. Biometrika 2: 357–462Google Scholar
  66. Plutynski, Anya 2006. What was Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection and what was it for? Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37: 59–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Porter, T. 2004. Karl Pearson. Princeton: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  68. Preece, D.A. 1990. R.A. Fisher and Experimental Design: A Review Biometrics 46: 925–935CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Provine, William B. 2001. The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics. Chicago: The University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  70. Rao C. Radhakrishna 1964. Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher-The Architect of Multivariate Analysis Biometrics 20: 286–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sarkar, Sahotra 1996. Lancelot Hogben, 1895–1975 Genetics 142: 655–660Google Scholar
  72. Sarkar, Sahotra 1998. Genetics and Reductionism. Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  73. Sarkar, Sahotra 1999. From the Reaktionsnorm to the Adaptive Norm: The Norm of Reaction, 1909–1960 Biology and Philosophy 14: 235–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schmalhausen, I.I. 1949. Factors of Evolution Chicago: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  75. Skipper, Robert A. Jr. 2002. The Persistence of the R. A. Fisher-Sewall Wright Controversy Biology and Philosophy 17: 341–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Soloway, Richard A. 1990. Demography and Degeneration: Eugenics and the Declining Birthrate in Twentieth-Century Britain. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina PressGoogle Scholar
  77. Tabery, James 2004. The ‹Evolutionary Synthesis’ of George Udny Yule Journal of the History of Biology 37: 73–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tabery, James. 2006. Looking Back on Lancelot’s Laughter Mendel Newsletter 15: 10–17Google Scholar
  79. Taylor N.B. 1931. The Relation of Temperature to the Heart Rate of the South African Frog (Xenopus dactylethra) Journal of Physiology 71: 156–168Google Scholar
  80. Thompson E.A. 1990. R.A. Fisher’s Contributions to Genetical Statistics Biometrics 46: 905–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Turkheimer, Eric, H. Hill Goldsmith, Irving I. Gottesman. 1995. Commentary on Gottlieb’s ‹Some Conceptual Deficiencies in ‹Developmental’ Behavior Genetics’. Human Development 38: 142–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Waddington, Conrad H. 1957. The Strategy of the Genes. London: Allen and UnwinGoogle Scholar
  83. Wells G.P. 1978. Lancelot Thomas Hogben Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society of London 24: 183–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wells, G.P. n.d. “Father and Son.” Lancelot Hogben Papers (A.38), University of BirminghamGoogle Scholar
  85. Werskey, Gary 1978. The Visible College: The Collective Biography of British Scientific Socialists of the 1930s. New York: Holt, Rinehart and WinstonGoogle Scholar
  86. Winton, Frank 1927. A Contrast between the Actions of Red and White Squills The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 31: 137–144Google Scholar
  87. Yates F. 1964. Sir Ronal Fisher and the Design of Experiments Biometrics 20:307–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Yates F., Mather K. 1963. Ronald Aylmer Fisher Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society of London 9: 91–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Yule, George Udny. 1902. “Mendel’s Laws and Their Probable Relations to Intra-Racial Heredity.” The New Phytologist 1: 193–207, 222–238Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations