Hamilton became famous through his theoretical work expounding a rigorous genetic basis for the existence of kin selection and altruism, an insight that was a key part of the development of a gene-centered view of evolution. Therefore, he may be seen as one of the forerunners of sociobiology, as popularized by E.O. Wilson. He was certainly a big influence on Dawkins. Hamilton also published important work on sex ratios and the evolution of sex. From 1984 to his death in 2000, he was the Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford University. He died of malaria contracted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Hamilton's equation [change]
Hamilton's equation describes whether or not a gene for altruistic behaviour will spread in a population. The gene will spread if rxb is greater than c:
- is the reproductive cost to the altruist,
- is the reproductive benefit to the recipient of the altruistic behavior, and
- is the probability, above the population average, of the individuals sharing an altruistic gene – the "degree of relatedness".
Collected papers [change]
Hamilton started to publish his collected papers starting in 1996, with short essays giving each paper context. He died after the preparation of the second volume, so the commentaries for the third volume came from his coauthors.
- Hamilton W.D. 1996. Narrow roads of gene land vol. 1: Evolution of social behaviour. Freeman, Oxford. ISBN 0-7167-4530-5
- Hamilton W.D. 2002. Narrow roads of gene land vol. 2: Evolution of sex. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-850336-9
- Hamilton W.D. 2005. Narrow roads of gene land, vol. 3: Last words (with essays by coauthors, ed. M. Ridley). Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-856690-5
- Obituary by Richard Dawkins – The Independent – 10 March 2000
- Hamilton W.D. 1996. Narrow roads of geneland: the collected papers of W.D. Hamilton, vol 1. Freeman, Oxford.