V. C. Wynne-Edwards

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Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards
V. C. Wynne-Edwards.gif
Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards
Born (1906-07-04)4 July 1906
Leeds, England
Died 5 January 1997(1997-01-05) (aged 90)
Banchory, Scotland
Citizenship United Kingdom
Nationality English
Fields zoology
Institutions McGill University[1] (1930-1946)
Aberdeen University[2] (1946-1974)
Alma mater New College, Oxford
Known for group selection
Notable awards Neill Prize (1973)
Frink Medal (1980)
Walker Prize

Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards CBE,[3] FRS,[4] FRSE (4 July 1906 – 5 January 1997) was an English zoologist. He was best known for his advocacy of group selection, the theory that natural selection acts at the level of the group.

Advocacy of group selection[edit]

Wynne-Edwards was best known for espousing group selection, most notably in his 1962 book, Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behaviour. In it, he argued that many behaviours are adaptations of the group, rather than adaptations of the individual, and that populations have adaptive self-regulatory mechanisms. His arguments were vigorously criticised by George C. Williams in his Adaptation and Natural Selection, as well as by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.

Fellow of the Royal Society[edit]

In 1970 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. His candidature citation read "Wynne-Edwards is noted for his many contributions to ecology. His early work was on social and other forms of rhythmic behaviour in birds. Later work on North Atlantic birds disclosed the existence of inshore, offshore and pelagic zones, each with a characteristic avian fauna. These categories have been found to apply generally to all oceans, and have been adopted as standard by later authors. His most important work has been on population dynamics in relation to social behaviour. It provides an hypothesis of homeostatic control of population density in animals at an optimum level, with a primary and universal function of sociality. Wynne-Edwards directs two research teams devoted to this work. He has also published papers on the animals and plants of the Arctic" [5]


His son Hugh Wynne-Edwards is a professor of geology, and his granddaughter Katherine Wynne-Edwards is a professor of biology at the University of Calgary.


  • Wynne-Edwards, V.C. 1962. Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behavior. Oliver & Boyd, London.
  • Wynne-Edwards, Vero Copner (1986). Evolution through group selection. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific. ISBN 0-632-01541-1. 


  1. ^ HILCHEY, TIM (8 February 1997). "Vero Wynne-Edwards, 90, Evolution Theorist". New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  2. ^ HILCHEY, TIM (8 February 1997). "Vero Wynne-Edwards, 90, Evolution Theorist". New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45860. pp. 7–8. 29 December 1972. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  4. ^ Newton, I. (1998). "Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards, C. B. E.. 4 July 1906-5 January 1997". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 44: 473. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1998.0030. 
  5. ^ "Library and Archive catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 


  • Borrello, Mark E (2005). "The rise, fall and resurrection of group selection.". Endeavour 29 (1). pp. 43–7. doi:10.1016/j.endeavour.2004.11.003. PMID 15749153. 
  • Borrello, Mark E (2004). ""Mutual aid" and "animal dispersion": an historical analysis of alternatives to Darwin". Perspect. Biol. Med. 47 (1). pp. 15–31. doi:10.1353/pbm.2004.0003. PMID 15061166. 
  • Williams, G.C. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
  • Williams, G.C. (Ed.) 1971 Group Selection. Aldine·Atherton, Chicago, IL.

Further reading[edit]

Borrello, Mark E. (1970–80). "Wynne-Edwards, Vero Copner". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 25. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 376–380. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9. 

External links[edit]