Nicholas Wade

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Nicholas Wade
Nicholas Wade.png
Born (1942-05-17) 17 May 1942 (age 80)[1]
Aylesbury, England
EducationEton College
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA)
Known forA Troublesome Inheritance

Nicholas Michael Landon Wade (born 17 May 1942)[1] is a British author and journalist.[2] He is the author of numerous books, and has served as staff writer and editor for Nature, Science, and the science section of The New York Times.[3][4]

His 2014 book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History was widely denounced by the scientific community for misrepresenting research into human population genetics.[5][6][7]

In May 2021, Wade published an article in support of the COVID-19 lab leak hypothesis,[8] fueling the controversy around the origins of the virus.[9] Wade's claims about the origin of COVID-19 are at odds with the prevailing view among scientists.[10][11][12][13]

Early life and education[edit]

Wade was born in Aylesbury, England[2] and educated at Eton College.[14] He is a grandson of Lawrence Beesley, a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic.[15][16] He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences from King's College, Cambridge in 1964, and immigrated to the United States in 1970.[2]


Wade was a science writer and editor for the journals Nature from 1967 to 1971, and Science from 1972 to 1982.[17] In a 1976 article in Science, Wade documented the controversy surrounding E. O. Wilson's book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis:[18] portraying Wilson in a sympathetic light, and the opposing Sociobiology Study Group more critically.[19]

Wade's 1977 book, The Ultimate Experiment: Man-Made Evolution, covered the then new and controversial field of gene splicing.[20] His 1981 book, The Nobel Duel: Two Scientists' 21-Year Race to Win the World's Most Coveted Research Prize, described the competition between Andrew Schally and Roger Guillemin, whose discoveries regarding the peptide hormone led to them sharing the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science (1982), co-authored with William J. Broad, discusses historical and contemporary examples of scientific fraud. Wade joined The New York Times in 1982 as a staff and editorial writer,[2] was appointed science and health editor in 1990;[21] he left the Times in 2012.[22]

In the 2000s, Wade's books began to focus on human evolution. He released Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors in 2006, which is about what Wade referred to as "two vanished periods" in human development, and The Faith Instinct in 2009, about the evolution of religious behaviour.[23][24] In 2007, Before the Dawn received a Science in Society Journalism Award from the National Association of Science Writers.[25]

A Troublesome Inheritance[edit]

In 2014, Wade released A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, in which he argued that human evolution has been "recent, copious, and regional" and that genes may have influenced a variety of behaviours that underpin differing forms of human society.[26][page needed] The book has been widely denounced by scientists, including many of those upon whose work the book was based.[27][5][6][7]

On 8 August 2014, The New York Times Book Review published an open letter signed by 139 faculty members in population genetics and evolutionary biology[5][6] which read:[27]

Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development. We reject Wade's implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not. We are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade's conjectures.

After publication, the letter was signed by four more faculty members.[7] In response to the letter, Wade said these scientists had misunderstood his intent.[5][6]

The book was further criticised in a series of five reviews by Agustín Fuentes, Jonathan M. Marks, Jennifer Raff, Charles C. Roseman and Laura R. Stein, which were published together in the scientific journal Human Biology.[28] Marks, for instance, described the book as "entirely derivative, an argument made from selective citations, misrepresentations, and speculative pseudoscience."[29] Biologist H. Allen Orr called the book "lively and generally serviceable", but said it was "not [...] without error", stating that Wade had overstated the evidence for recent natural selection in the human genome.[30]

COVID-19 lab leak hypothesis[edit]

In May 2021, Wade published a 10,000-word article on Medium and later in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled "The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?" in which he argued that the possibility that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered and had leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, couldn’t be dismissed.[8][31][32] Wade's article fuelled the controversy around the origins of the virus, and has become one of the most-cited pieces in support of the lab leak hypothesis.[9][33] Wade's argument is at odds with the prevailing view among scientists that the virus most likely has a zoonotic origin.[10][11][12][13] While some experts have supported taking the lab leak possibility seriously, the majority consider it very unlikely, unsupported by available evidence and bordering on speculation.[34][35][12][36] David Gorski of Science-Based Medicine described Wade's argument as a conspiracy theory.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Wade, Nicholas 1942–". Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d "Nicholas Wade". Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Gale In Context: Biography. Farmington Hills, Mich. 17 November 2011. GALE|H1000102428.
  3. ^ Amos Esty (25 May 2006). "The Bookshelf talks with Nicholas Wade". American Scientist. Archived from the original on 25 October 2007.
  4. ^ Gitschier, Jane (2005). "Turning the Tables—An Interview with Nicholas Wade". PLOS Genetics. 1 (3): e45. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0010045. ISSN 1553-7390. PMC 1239940. PMID 16205791.
  5. ^ a b c d Balter, Michael (8 August 2014). "Geneticists decry book on race and evolution". Science.
  6. ^ a b c d Callaway, Ewen (8 August 2014). "Geneticists say popular book misrepresents research on human evolution". Nature newsblog.
  7. ^ a b c Hiltzik, Michael (12 August 2014). "Racism, the Misuse of Genetics and a Huge Scientific Protest". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ a b Wade, Nicolas (5 May 2021). "The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora's box at Wuhan?". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
  9. ^ a b Thorp, H. Holden (13 May 2021). "Continued discussion on the origin of COVID-19". Editor's Blog. Science. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  10. ^ a b Beaumont, Peter (27 May 2021). "Did Covid come from a Wuhan lab? What we know so far". The Guardian.
  11. ^ a b Hakim, Mohamad S. (14 February 2021). "SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19, and the debunking of conspiracy theories". Reviews in Medical Virology. 31 (6): e2222. doi:10.1002/rmv.2222. ISSN 1099-1654. PMC 7995093. PMID 33586302.
  12. ^ a b c Frutos, Roger; Gavotte, Laurent; Devaux, Christian A. (18 March 2021). "Understanding the origin of COVID-19 requires to change the paradigm on zoonotic emergence from the spillover model to the viral circulation model". Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 95: 104812. doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2021.104812. ISSN 1567-1348. PMC 7969828. PMID 33744401.
  13. ^ a b "COVID-19 Virtual Press conference transcript - 9 February 2021". Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  14. ^ "Spirit level". The Economist. 17 December 2009. ISSN 1476-8860. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  15. ^ "'Titanic 2': Love Over A Ouija Board". The Canberra Times. 4 January 1998 – via NewsBank.
  16. ^ Wade, Nicholas (9 April 2012). "As Hundreds of Men Perished, One Ignored a Rumor to Survive". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Nicholas Wade: Journalist & Science Author, Speaker | PRH Speakers Bureau". Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  18. ^ Wade, Nicholas (19 March 1976). "Sociobiology: troubled birth for new discipline". Science. 191 (4232): 1151–1155. Bibcode:1976Sci...191.1151W. doi:10.1126/science.11643305. PMID 11643305.
  19. ^ Currier, Richard (November 1976). "Sociobiology: The New Heresy". Human Behavior: The Newsmagazine of the Social Sciences. Vol. 5, no. 11. pp. 16–22.
  20. ^ Shechter, Yaakou (1977). "The Ultimate Experiment: Man-Made Evolution". American Scientist. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  21. ^ "Times Appoints a Science Editor". The New York Times. 18 September 1990.
  22. ^ "Oral History". Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Archived from the original on 27 June 2021.
  23. ^ Salevouris, Michael J. (2015). The methods and skills of history : a practical guide. Conal Furay (4 ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, UK. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-118-74544-1. OCLC 885229353.
  24. ^ Shulevitz, Judith (24 December 2009). "The God Gene". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Science-in-Society Journalism Award winners". National Association of Science Writers. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  26. ^ Wade, Nicholas (2014). A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. New York: Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0698163799.
  27. ^ a b Coop, Graham; Eisen, Michael; Nielsen, Rasmus; Przeworski, Molly; Rosenberg, Noah (8 August 2014). "Letters: 'A Troublesome Inheritance'". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 25 September 2014 – via Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics, Stanford University. We are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade's conjectures.
  28. ^ "Human Biology: International Journal of Population Genetics and Anthropology | Vol 86 | Iss 3". Summer 2014. JSTOR 10.13110/humanbiology.86.issue-3 – via {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. ^ Marks, Jonathan (2014). "Review of A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade". Human Biology. 86 (3): 221–226. doi:10.13110/humanbiology.86.3.0221.
  30. ^ Orr, H. Allen (5 June 2014). "Stretch Genes". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  31. ^ Mukunth, Vasudevan (12 May 2021). "In COVID Origins Storm, Fauci Denies US Funded Controversial Study in Wuhan". The Wire Science.
  32. ^ Eban, Katherine (3 June 2021). "The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19's Origins". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 6 June 2021. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  33. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (8 June 2021). "Column: A Nobel laureate backs off from claiming a 'smoking gun' for the COVID-19 lab-leak theory". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  34. ^ Ward, Myah; Rayasam, Renuka (19 May 2021). "Experts weigh in on the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis". Politico Nightly (newsletter). Politico. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  35. ^ Ling, Justin (15 June 2021). "The Lab Leak Theory Doesn't Hold Up". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  36. ^ Holmes, Edward C.; Goldstein, Stephen A.; Rasmussen, Angela L.; Robertson, David L.; Crits-Christoph, Alexander; Wertheim, Joel O.; Anthony, Simon J.; Barclay, Wendy S.; Boni, Maciej F.; Doherty, Peter C.; Farrar, Jeremy; Geoghegan, Jemma L.; Jiang, Xiaowei; Leibowitz, Julian L.; Neil, Stuart J.D.; Skern, Tim; Weiss, Susan R.; Worobey, Michael; Andersen, Kristian G.; Garry, Robert F.; Rambaut, Andrew (September 2021). "The origins of SARS-CoV-2: A critical review". Cell. 184 (19): 4848–4856. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2021.08.017. PMC 8373617. PMID 34480864.
  37. ^ Gorski, David (31 May 2021). "The origin of SARS-CoV-2, revisited". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 23 June 2021.

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