John Tyler Bonner is one of the leading biologists in the world. He is widely known for his research in the use of cellular slime molds to understand how evolution works. He was at the forefront of making Dictyostelium discoideum a model organism central to observe some of the biggest questions in experimental biology.
Bonner is the George M. Moffett Professor Emeritus of Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. The Cellular Slime Molds, The Evolution of Culture in Animals, Life Cycles, and The Ideas of Biology are some of his popularly known works. Let’s learn more about him.
Education and popular works
Bonner was born in 1920 and went to Harvard University for his graduation. He also pursued Ph.D. but it was interrupted by a stint in the US Army Air Corps, so he finished his studies in a short span of time. He soon became a faculty at Princeton University. Bonner has three honorary doctorates and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Bonner’s work argues the role of randomness or chance in evolution. In his work named Randomness in Evolution, he shows how the effects of randomness differ for organisms of different shapes and sizes. He also discusses how sexual cycles may change depending on size and complexity, and how the trend away from randomness in higher forms has even been reversed in some cases. His research before his death show experiments designed to determine how this reversal is achieved in several species that d not align morphologically.
Bonner’s early support for evolution
Bonner was one of the first American biologists to express scientific support for evolution. In 1966, Nobel Prize winner American biologist Hermann J. Muller circulated a petition called: “Is Biological Evolution a Principle of Nature that has been well established by Science?”
Bonner signed the petition and was supported by 176 other leading American biologists, including several Nobel Prize winners. Bonner’s work is highly readable and unusually clearly written and his contributions have made many complicated ideas of biology accessible to a great number of interested people.