Colin Patterson (biologist)

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Colin Patterson FRS[1] (1933–1998),[2] was a paleontologist at the British Museum who specialised in fossil fish and systematics, advocating the transformed cladistics school.

Personal Life and Education[edit]

Colin Patterson was born on 13 October 1933 in Hammersmith, London, the son of Maurice William Patterson (1908–1991) and Norah Joan (née Elliott) (1907–1984).[3]

After national service in the Royal Engineers, Patterson studied zoology at Imperial College, London (1954–7). He undertook postgraduate research into fossil fishes at University College, London and obtained a PhD in 1961.[3]

In 1955 he married the artist Rachel Caridwen Richards (b. 1932), who was the elder daughter of the artists Ceri Richards and Frances Richards. They had two daughters, Sarah (b. 1959) and Jane (b. 1963).[3]

He died in London on 9 March 1998

Professional life[edit]

In 1999, he authored a general textbook on evolution, Evolution,[4] and edited Molecules and morphology in evolution: conflict or compromise?[5] a book on the use of molecular and morphological evidence for inferring phylogenies.

Although Patterson did not support creationism, his work has been cited by creationists as evidence of the absence of transitional forms in the fossil record.[6][7] In "Evolution", Patterson explains how his remarks were taken out of context. "Because creationists lack scientific research to support such theories as a young earth ... a world-wide flood ... or separate ancestry for humans and apes, their common tactic is to attack evolution by hunting out debate or dissent among evolutionary biologists. ... I learned that one should think carefully about candor in argument (in publications, lectures, or correspondence) in case one was furnishing creationist campaigners with ammunition in the form of 'quotable quotes', often taken out of context" (p 122). [8]



  1. ^ Fortey, R. A. (1999). "Colin Patterson. 13 October 1933--9 March 1998: Elected F.R.S. 1993". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 45: 365. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1999.0025.  edit
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004. 
  4. ^ Patterson 1999, Evolution. Comstock Pub. Associates
  5. ^ Patterson (Ed.) 1987, Molecules and morphology in evolution: conflict or compromise? Cambridge University Press [2]
  6. ^ Nelson, Paul A (1996). "Colin Patterson Revisits His Famous Question about Evolution". Access Research Network. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils ... I will lay it on the line, there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument" - Dr. Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist, British Museum of Natural History, London. As quoted by: L. D. Sunderland in Darwin's Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems 4th edition, Master Books, 1988, p. 89
  8. ^
  9. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660 – 2007". Royal Society. Retrieved 2012-03-03. 
  10. ^ "Past Award Winners". Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Medals and Prizes". The Linnean Society of London. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 

Further reading[edit]