Colin Patterson (biologist)

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Colin Patterson FRS (1933–1998), was a British palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London from 1962 to his official retirement in 1993[1] who specialised in fossil fish and systematics, advocating the transformed cladistics school.[2]

Education and early life[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 (1954–57). He undertook postgraduate research into fossil fishes at University College London and obtained a PhD in 1961.[3]

Career and research[edit]

In 1978, he authored a general textbook on evolution, Evolution,[4] and edited Molecules and Morphology in Evolution: Conflict or Compromise? (1987),[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 the second edition of Evolution (1999), Patterson stated that his remarks had been 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 candour 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.[8]

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

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 of a heart attack on 9 March 1998.[12]


  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.
  2. ^ Nelson, Paul A. (1996). "A Colin Patterson Sampler". Colorado Springs, CO: Access Research Network. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  3. ^ a b c Forey, Peter L. (2004). "Patterson, Colin". In Matthew, H.C.G.; Harrison, Brian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 43. Oxford, UK; New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/69557. ISBN 0-19-861411-X. LCCN 2004005444.
  4. ^ Patterson, Colin (1978). Evolution. Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7100-0011-1. LCCN 77007865.
  5. ^ Patterson, Colin, ed. (1987). Molecules and Morphology in Evolution: Conflict or Compromise?. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-33860-3. LCCN 86023318. "Papers presented at the Third International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, held at the University of Sussex, 4–11 July 1985."
  6. ^ Nelson, Paul A. (Winter 1996). "Colin Patterson Revisits His Famous Question about Evolution". Origins & Design. Colorado Springs, CO: Access Research Network. 17 (1). ISSN 0748-9919. Retrieved 2014-12-01.
  7. ^ Sunderland, Luther D. (1988). Darwin's Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems (4th revised and expanded ed.). San Diego, CA: Master Books. p. 89. ISBN 0-89051-108-X. "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." – Patterson as quoted by Sunderland.
  8. ^ Bartelt, Karen (May–June 2000). "Review: Evolution". Reports of the National Center for Science Education (Book review). Berkeley, CA: National Center for Science Education. 20 (3): 38–39. ISSN 2158-818X. Retrieved 2015-05-21. Bartelt quoting from Patterson, Evolution (1999), p. 122
  9. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660 – 2007" (PDF). Royal Society. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  10. ^ "Past Award Winners". Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
  11. ^ "Medals and Prizes". Linnean Society of London. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
  12. ^ Nelson, Gareth (2008). "Patterson, Colin". Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. HighBeam Research. Retrieved 2015-05-21.

Further reading[edit]