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Bill Hamilton

He was the greatest biologist of the 20th century yet, to the dismay of his many friends and admirers, he believed that only a radical programme of infanticide and eugenics could save the human race

By Andrew Brown   January 2003

No one was quite sure what killed Bill Hamilton in March 2000, but it was widely supposed that he had died of malaria, contracted on an expedition to sample chimpanzee faeces in the Congo. What everyone knew for certain was that with his passing had gone the greatest evolutionary thinker of the late 20th century. Richard Dawkins certainly thought so. In a moving and delicate eulogy, he said that meeting Hamilton was the closest a modern biologist could come to meeting Darwin.

In his famous book The Selfish Gene, first published in 1976, Dawkins had produced a thrilling synthesis of…

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