John Tyler Bonner

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John Tyler Bonner
Born May 12, 1920 (1920-05-12) (age 97)
Occupation Biologist
Employer Princeton University

John Tyler Bonner (born May 12, 1920) is an emeritus professor, now lecturer with the rank of professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He is a pioneer in the use of cellular slime molds to understand evolution and development over a career of 40 years and is one of the world's leading experts on cellular slime moulds.[1] Arizona State University says that the establishment and growth of developmental-evolutionary biology owes a great debt to the work of Bonner’s studies. His work is highly readable and unusually clearly written and his contributions have made many complicated ideas of biology accessible to a wide audience.[2]


Bonner is the George M. Moffett Professor Emeritus of Biology at Princeton University. He was trained at Harvard University between 1937 and 1947, aside from a stint in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946. He soon joined the faculty of Princeton University, becoming the chairman of the Princeton Biology Department between 1966 and 1977, also in 1983-84 and 1987-88.

He holds four honorary doctorates and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was made a National Academy of Sciences fellow in 1973.

He was a visiting scholar at the Indian Institute of Science in 1993 and the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1990. He has also been visiting faculty at Brooklyn College, Williams College and University College, London. He also was a Sheldon Travelling Fellow in 1941 in Panama and Cuba while in graduate school, a Rockefeller Traveling Fellow 1953 in Paris, France, and held Guggenheim Fellowships in 1958 and from 1971-1972 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He held a National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cambridge, England in 1963. He also had Commonwealth Foundation Book Fund Fellowships in 1971 and between 1984 and in 1985 Edinburgh, Scotland and a Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation Book Fund Fellowship in 1978 in Edinburgh, Scotland.


He has written several books on developmental biology and evolution, many scientific papers, and has produced a number of works in biology. He is best known as one of the world's leading experts on slime moulds and he has led the way in making Dictyostelium discoideum a model organism central to examining some of the major questions in experimental biology.[3] He defines the complexity of an organism as the number of types of cells in it though complexity theorists disagree and he argues that both plant and animal taxa which have evolved later, have a greater number of cell types than their predecessors, and seeks an explanation acceptable to neo-Darwinism.

His works include:

His autobiography, Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science was the winner of the 2002 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award.

Support for evolution[edit]

Bonner was involved with one of the earliest American efforts to express scientific support for evolution. The Nobel Prize–winning American biologist Hermann J. Muller circulated a petition in May 1966 entitled: "Is Biological Evolution a Principle of Nature that has been well established by Science?".[5] Bonner signed this manifesto, along with 176 other leading American biologists, including several Nobel Prize winners.[6]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Princeton University (2011), Science and technology Story, "The 'sultan of slime': Biologist continues to be fascinated by organisms after nearly 70 years of study". News at Princeton.
  4. ^ "Review"
  5. ^ Bales, James D., Forty-Two Years on the Firing Line, Lambert, Shreveport, LA, p.71-72, 1977.
  6. ^ The Day the Scientists Voted, Bert Thompson, Apologetics Press: Sensible Science, 2001, originally published in Reason & Revelation, 2(3):9-11, March 1982.


  • Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science, John Tyler Bonner, Harvard University Press, May 24, 2002, ISBN 0-674-00763-8
  • On Growth and Form, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, John Tyler Bonner (editor), Cambridge University Press; Abridged edition, July 31, 1992, ISBN 0-521-43776-8
  • Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, September 13, 2006, ISBN 0-691-12850-2
  • On Size and Life (Scientific American Library), Thomas McMahon, John Tyler Bonner, Scientific American Library, May 1985, ISBN 0-7167-5000-7
  • Sixty Years of Biology, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, July 8, 1996, ISBN 0-691-02130-9
  • Size and Cycle: An Essay on the Structure of Biology, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, January 1966, ISBN 0-691-08033-X
  • The Ideas of Biology, John Tyler Bonner, Dover Publications; New Ed edition, November 11, 2002, ISBN 0-486-42419-7
  • The Evolution of Culture in Animals, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, May 1, 1983, ISBN 0-691-02373-5
  • Evolution and Development (Life Sciences Research Report), John Tyler Bonner, Springer, February 1982, ISBN 0-387-11331-2
  • Life Cycles, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press; New Ed edition, April 3, 1995, ISBN 0-691-00151-0
  • Cells and Societies, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, 1957, ASIN B000GP02EI
  • The cellular slime molds (Investigations in the biological sciences), John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, 1959, ASIN B0006AVVYS
  • The Evolution of Complexity by Means of Natural Selection, John Tyler Bonner, Princeton Univ Press, October 1988, ISBN 0-691-08493-9
  • First Signals: The Evolution of Multicellular Development., John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, February 15, 2001, ISBN 0-691-07038-5
  • The Ideas of Biology. With Drawings by Ann Cox. , John Tyler Bonner, Methuen (University Paperbacks), 1965, ASIN B000L5PVT4
  • Morphogenesis An Essay on Development, John Tyler Bonner, #Princeton University Press, 1952, ASIN B000J0MOMS
  • On Development: The Biology of Form (Commonwealth Fund Publications), John Tyler Bonner, Harvard University Press, January 1974, ISBN 0-674-63410-1
  • The Scale of Nature: A Panoramic View of the Sciences, John Tyler Bonner (Author), Patricia Collins (Illustrator), Harper & Row, 1969, ASIN B000M1Q7EU
  • Researches on cellular slime moulds: Selected papers of J.T. Bonner, John Tyler Bonner, Indian Academy of Sciences, 1991, ISBN 81-85324-10-7

External links[edit]