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Francisco J. Ayala

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Francisco J. Ayala
Francisco José Ayala Pereda

(1934-03-12)March 12, 1934[3]
DiedMarch 5, 2023(2023-03-05) (aged 88)
CitizenshipSpanish, American (1971–2023)
Alma materUniversity of Salamanca
Columbia University
Known forPopulation genetics
  • Mary Henderson
    (m. 1968, divorced)
  • Hana Lostokova
    (m. 1985)
AwardsNational Medal of Science, Templeton Prize
Scientific career
FieldsBiology, Genetics
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Davis (1971–1989)[1]
University of California, Irvine (1989–2018)[2]
Doctoral advisorTheodosius Dobzhansky
Doctoral studentsJohn Avise

Francisco José Ayala Pereda (March 12, 1934 – March 3, 2023) was a Spanish-American evolutionary biologist and philosopher who was a longtime faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, and University of California, Davis.[4]

Ayala was previously president and chairman of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[5] At University of California, Irvine, his academic appointments included University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (School of Biological Sciences), Professor of Philosophy (School of Humanities), and Professor of Logic and the Philosophy of Science (School of Social Sciences).[6]

Ayala's employment at UC Irvine ended in 2018 after the university issued a report relating to allegations of sexual harassment claims against him.[7] Ayala denied having "intentionally caused sexual harassment to anybody."[7] His name was removed from the School of Biological Sciences, the Science Library, as well as various graduate fellowships, scholarship programs, and endowed chairs.[8]

Early life and education


Earlier in life, Ayala was a Dominican priest,[9][10] ordained in 1960 and leaving the priesthood that same year.[11] After graduating from the University of Salamanca, he moved to the United States in 1961 to study for a PhD at Columbia University. There, he studied for his doctorate under Theodosius Dobzhansky, graduating in 1964.[12] He became a US citizen in 1971.



Ayala is known for his research on population and evolutionary genetics, and has been called the "Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology".[13] His "discoveries have opened up new approaches to the prevention and treatment of diseases that affect hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide", including demonstrating that the reproduction of Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease, is mostly the product of cloning, and that only a few clones account for most of this widespread disease.[14]

Ayala served on the advisory board of the now defunct Campaign to Defend the Constitution, an organization that has lobbied in support of the separation of church and state. He has been publicly critical of U.S. restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He was also a critic of intelligent design theories, claiming that they are not only pseudoscience, but also misunderstood from a theological point of view. He suggested that the theory of evolution resolves the problem of evil, thus being a kind of theodicy.[15][16][17] Although Ayala generally did not discuss his religious views, he has stated that "science is compatible with religious faith in a personal, omnipotent and benevolent God."[18] He also briefly served, in 1960, as a Dominican priest.[19] Ayala did not say whether he remained a religious believer, not wanting to be "tagged by one side or the other."[20]

Ayala attended the Beyond Belief symposium in November 2006. Ayala debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig in November 2009 on the topic of intelligent design.[21]

On October 18, 2011, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) announced that Ayala would be donating $10 million to the university's School of Biological Sciences. The gift was to be "$1 million a year for the next decade."[22]

Sexual harassment investigation


Four women (professor Kathleen Treseder, another professor, an assistant dean, and one graduate student),[23] alleged that Ayala had sexually harassed them, prompting an investigation led by Erik Pelowitz at UC Irvine's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.[7] The university investigators concluded that Ayala violated the university's policies on sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the cases of three of the four women,[7] and found that the conduct at issue extended to 2004 and had led to previous warnings to Ayala.[7] The investigators' report also concluded that Ayala "engaged in a campaign with the highest University officials to influence the outcome of this investigation."[7] Ayala denied most allegations against him, and wrote to the university's chancellor, Howard Gillman, "I have never intentionally caused sexual harassment to anybody. To the extent that my actions may have caused harm to others ... I apologize from the deepest of my heart and of my mind."[7] He resigned effective July 1, 2018.[23]

Ayala was represented in the investigation by attorney Susan Estrich.[23] The investigation against Ayala extended to more than 60 witnesses,[23] and the outcome divided scholars.[7][23] Camilo José Cela Conde[23] and Elizabeth Loftus defended him, the latter saying that she was "shocked that this man's life was ruined over this collection of reactions to his behavior" and described the allegations as "thin."[7] In contrast, T. Jane Zelikova, the founder of 500 Women Scientists, supported Ayala's ouster.[7] Ann Olivarius, a lawyer and sexual harassment expert who reviewed the report at the request of Science magazine, said that Ayala did not "have sex with students or pressure them directly for sex" but "clearly made multiple women feel degraded" and continued to do so "after senior university officials warned him to stop acting in these ways."[7]

Ayala returned to his private life, and the university removed his name from the School of Biological Sciences, the Science Library, and endowed chairs that had been named after Ayala.[8][2] The American Association for the Advancement of Science removed his fellowship status.[24] The U.S. National Academy of Sciences rescinded Ayala's membership for violation of Section 4 of the NAS Code of Conduct, effective June 23, 2021.[25]

Awards and honors


In 2001, Ayala was awarded the National Medal of Science.[14] On April 13, 2007, he was awarded the first of 100 bicentennial medals at Mount Saint Mary's University for lecturing there as the first presenter for the Bicentennial Distinguished Lecture Series. His lecture was entitled "The Biological Foundations of Morality". Other awards he received include the Gold Honorary Gregor Mendel Medal of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Gold Medal of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Gold Medal of the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, the President's Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility[26] and 150th Anniversary Leadership Medal of the AAAS, the Medal of the College of France, the UCI Medal of the University of California, the 1998 Distinguished Scientist Award from the SACNAS, and Sigma Xi's William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, 2000. In 2010, he was awarded the Templeton Prize.[27] The science library at UCI was named after him from 2010 until 2018, when his name was removed after a university investigation concluded that his conduct with respect to three women violated university policies.[7][28][2] Ayala delivered a lecture at the Trotter Prize ceremony in 2011 entitled "Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion." In 2014, UCI named its School of Biological Sciences the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences after Ayala.[29] UCI removed his name from the library and school in 2018, after finding that he sexually harassed at least four women.[2]

Ayala was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977, and the National Academy of Sciences in 1980, though his fellowship status in these institutions was later revoked.[30] He was a member of the American Philosophical Society. He was also a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome, the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. He had honorary degrees from the University of Athens, the University of Bologna, the University of Barcelona, the University of the Balearic Islands, the University of León, the University of Madrid, the University of Salamanca, the University of Valencia, the University of Vigo, Far Eastern National University, Masaryk University and University of Warsaw.

Personal life


Francisco Ayala was born to Francisco Ayala and Soledad Pereda. In the late 1960s he met Mary Henderson, they married on May 27, 1968.[31] They had two sons: Francisco José (born 1969) and Carlos Alberto (born 1972).[32] Their marriage ended in divorce,[33] and in 1985 he married an ecologist named Hana Ayala (née Lostáková, born 1956).[34][35] They lived in Irvine, California. He died from a heart attack on March 3, 2023, in Newport Beach, at age 88.[36][37]



Ayala has published 950 publications and 30 books. Recently published books include:

  • Ayala, F.J. Evolution, Explanation, Ethics and Aesthetics: Towards a Philosophy of Biology. Academic Press: 2016. ISBN 9780128036938
  • Ayala, F.J. Am I a Monkey: Six Big Questions About Evolution. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD, US 2010.
  • Ayala, F.J. and Robert Arp, eds. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell: London, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4051-5998-2
  • Avise, J.C. and F.J. Ayala, eds. In the Light of Evolution: Adaptation and Complex Design. National Academy Press: Washington, DC. 2007. ISBN 978-0-309-10405-0
  • Cela Conde, C.J. and F.J. Ayala. Human Evolution. Trails from the Past. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2007.
  • Ayala, F.J. Darwin y el Diseño Inteligente. Creacionismo, Cristianismo y Evolución. Alianza Editorial: Madrid, Spain, 231 pp. 2007.
  • Ayala, F.J. Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Joseph Henry Press: Washington, DC, xi + 237 pp. 2007
  • Ayala, F.J. La Evolución de un Evolucionista. Escritos Seleccionados. University of Valencia: Valencia, Spain, 441 pp. 2006. ISBN 84-370-6526-7
  • Ayala, F.J. Darwin and Intelligent Design. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN, xi + 116 pp. 2006.
  • Ayala, F.J. and C.J. Cela Conde. La piedra que se volvió palabra. Las claves evolutivas de la humanidad. Alianza Editorial: Madrid, Spain. 184 pp. 2006 ISBN 84-206-4783-7
  • Hey, J., W.M. Fitch and F.J. Ayala, eds. Systematics and the Origin of Species. On Ernst Mayr's 100th Anniversary. National Academies Press: Washington, DC. xiii + 367 pp. 2005 ISBN 0-309-09536-0
  • Wuketits, F.M. and F.J. Ayala, eds. Handbook of Evolution: The Evolution of Living Systems (Including Hominids), Volume 2. Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, Germany. 292 pp. 2005. ISBN 978-3-527-61971-9
  • Ayala, F.J. Le Ragioni dell’ Evoluzione. Di Renzo Editore: Rome. 109 pp. 2005.
  • Ayala, F.J. Human Evolution: Biology, Culture, Ethics. In: J.B. Miller, ed., The Epic of Evolution. Science and Religion in Dialogue (Pearson Education, Inc.: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey), pp. 166–180. 2004.

See also



  1. ^ Ayala, Francisco J. (December 2009). "Francisco J. Ayala". Current Biology. 19 (23): R1060–R1061. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.033. S2CID 46117440.
  2. ^ a b c d Watanabe, Teresa (June 28, 2018). "Acclaimed UC Irvine geneticist resigns after committing sexual harassment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  3. ^ Hall, Brian Keith; Strickberger, Monroe W.; Hallgrímsson, Benedikt (2008). Strickberger's evolution: the integration of genes, organisms and populations. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett. p. 633. ISBN 978-0-7637-0066-9.
  4. ^ Pinar García, Susana (2016). De Dios y ciencia. La evolución de Francisco J. Ayala. Madrid: Alianza Editorial. ISBN 9788491042358.
  5. ^ Dean, Cornelia (April 29, 2008). "Roving Defender of Evolution, and of Room for God". New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  6. ^ "Biologist Francisco J. Ayala". The Scientist. February 5, 1996. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Meredith Wadman (July 20, 2018). "Here's the sexual harassment report that felled a famed geneticist—and his defense". Science. AAAS.
  8. ^ a b "UCI proposes new name for School of Biological Sciences, science library after internal investigation substantiates sexual harassment claims against signature donor". UCI News. June 28, 2018.
  9. ^ "Evolution: Religion: Science and Faith". Pbs.org. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  10. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (April 27, 1999). "A CONVERSATION WITH: FRANCISCO J. AYALA; Ex-Priest Takes the Blasphemy Out of Evolution". New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  11. ^ Richardson, W.; Slack, Gordy (2001). Faith in science: scientists search for truth. London: Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 0-415-25765-4.
  12. ^ Ayala, Francisco (1976). "Theodosius Dobzhansky: The Man and the Scientist". Annual Review of Genetics. 10: 1–6. doi:10.1146/annurev.ge.10.120176.000245. PMID 797305.
  13. ^ "A Conversation with Hana and Francisco J. Ayala". American Association for the Advancement of Science. March 23, 2006. Archived from the original on June 5, 2009. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  14. ^ a b "Biologist Francisco J. Ayala Wins National Medal of Science". University of California. May 9, 2002. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  15. ^ Ayala, F. J. (2007). Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press. p. xi. I shudder in terror at the thought that some people of faith would implicitly attribute this calamity to the Creator's faulty design. I rather see it as a consequence of the clumsy ways of the evolutionary process..
  16. ^ Ayala, F. J. (2007). Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press. pp. 4–5. Later, when I was studying the theology in Salamanca, Darwin was a much-welcomed friend. The theory of evolution provided the solution to the remaining component of the problem of evil. As floods and drought were a necessary consequence of the fabric of the physical world, predators and parasites, dysfunctions and diseases were a consequence of the evolution of life. They were not a result of a deficient or malevolent design: the features of organisms were not designed by the Creator.
  17. ^ Ayala, F. J. (2007). Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press. p. 159. Religious scholars in the past had struggled with imperfection ... in the living world, which [is] difficult to explain if [it is] the outcome of God's design. ... Evolution came to the rescue. ... The theory of evolution, which at first had seemed to remove the need for God in the world, now has convincingly removed the need to explain the world's imperfections as failed outcomes of God's design.
  18. ^ Lawton, Graham (April 2, 2010). "Templeton prizewinner: We need science plus morality". New Scientist.
  19. ^ Ruse, Michael. Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? : The Relationship between Science and Religion. Cambridge University Press: New York, xi + 242 pp. 2001, p. 75
  20. ^ Dean, Cornelia (April 29, 2008). "Roving Defender of Evolution". New York Times. Dr. Ayala does not say whether he remains a religious believer. "I don't want to be tagged," he said. "By one side or the other."
  21. ^ "Is Intelligent Design Viable? The Craig-Ayala Debate". reasonablefaith.org. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  22. ^ Rivera, Carla (October 18, 2011). "UC Irvine professor donating $10 million to school". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Meredith Wadman, Prominent geneticist out at UC Irvine after harassment finding, Science (June 29, 2018).
  24. ^ Wadman, Meredith (September 21, 2018). "AAAS adopts new policy for ejecting harassers". Science. 361 (6408): 1175. Bibcode:2018Sci...361.1175W. doi:10.1126/science.361.6408.1175. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 30237333. S2CID 206626401.
  25. ^ Ortega, Rodrigo Pérez (June 24, 2021). "National Academy of Sciences ejects biologist Francisco Ayala in the wake of sexual harassment findings". Science. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  26. ^ The Scientist. Vol. 1. Institute for Scientific Information. 1987. p. 27.
  27. ^ Dean, Cornelia (March 25, 2010). "Biologist Wins Templeton Prize". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  28. ^ "UCI Science Library to be named in honor of Francisco J. Ayala". University of California, Irvine. April 26, 2010. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  29. ^ "UC Irvine's School of Biological Sciences renamed in honor of Francisco J. Ayala". Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2014.
  30. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  31. ^ World of Genetics on Francisco J. Ayala. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  32. ^ Vasich, Tom (May 9, 2002). "Biologist Francisco J. Ayala Wins National Medal of Science". University of California. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008.
  33. ^ "Templeton Prize Fact Sheet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 11, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
  34. ^ "Hana and Francisco J. Ayala: Separate Careers, a Common Passion for Knowledge". American Association for the Advancement of Science. March 31, 2006. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011.
  35. ^ Elizabeth Sleeman, ed. (2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 1-85743-217-7.
  36. ^ "Muere el genetista Francisco J. Ayala a los 88 años de edad". El País. March 5, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  37. ^ Dean, Cornelia (March 10, 2023). "Francisco Ayala, Biologist and Defender of Evolution, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 10, 2023. Retrieved March 11, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
Cultural offices
Preceded by President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Succeeded by