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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
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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 

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Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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