Broadcast: News items

Life Sciences to host School founder centenary celebration

John Maynard Smith

The School of Life Sciences is hosting a special event to commemorate the work and life of John Maynard Smith on 13 May.

The year 2020 marks 100 years since the birth of John Maynard Smith (JMS); a renowned evolutionary biologist who set up the School of Life Sciences (formally the School of Biological Sciences) in 1965.

The event will see JMS’ former colleagues, friends and family share recent research in his field of science and share personal reminisces and anecdotes of working with him.

Adam Eyre-Walker, Professor of Biology, is lead organiser of the event. He said: “This year marks an excellent opportunity to celebrate the founder of our School and one of the great evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. John Maynard Smith was, and still is, an extremely influential scientist in the field of evolutionary biology, particularly noted for introducing game theory to the analysis of animal behaviour and his work on the evolution of sex.

“In founding the school he aimed to break down divisions between traditional subjects and to modernise teaching and research in the biological sciences. His influence of promoting collaboration between disciplines continues in the School of Life Sciences to this day.”

JMS was born in 1920 and after a taking a degree in engineering at Cambridge and an early career designing military aircraft during the second world war, he changed course and studied Zoology at University College London. Shortly after graduating, he became a Lecturer in Zoology at UCL and led the Drosophila Lab, having studied fruit fly genetics with the eminent biologist J.B.S Haldane.

In 1962 JMS became a founding member of the University of Sussex and by 1965 had set up the School of Biological Sciences and served as Head of School twice; from 1965 – 1972 and 1982 – 84.

He was active in both teaching and research and published several influential books during his time at Sussex.

He received many prestigious awards and prizes including the Crafoord and Kyoto prizes, the Linnaean Medal, the Frink Medal, the Darwin Medal and many more. He is also one of only two people to date to receive the Darwin Wallace Award posthumously.

In 2003, the Building which houses much of the School of Life Sciences, was named the John Maynard Smith Building in his honour.

For more information about the event and to register, please visit the website.

The JMS centenary celebration event is partly funded by the Genetics Society.

By: Jessica Gowers
Last updated: Wednesday, 29 January 2020