News FocusRobert Trivers Profile

Sharp Insights and a Sharp Tongue

Science  04 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6056, pp. 589-591
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6056.589

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Summary

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker calls Robert Trivers "one of the great thinkers in the history of Western thought." Stuart West, a professor of evolutionary biology at Oxford, recently described Trivers as "one of the most influential evolutionary biologists since Charles Darwin." And in 1999, Time named Trivers one of the 20th century's 100 greatest thinkers and scientists. In the 1970s, Trivers penned a series of landmark papers that have been cited thousands of times and opened up the study of human relationships to biology. Looking at interactions between friends, lovers, and parent and child, he helped to lay the foundations for sociobiology, or a "Darwinian social theory," as he called it. Then he disappeared from view, only to reemerge in the 1990s. His latest effort, a book called The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, might well introduce him to a larger audience.

  • Kai Kupferschmidt is a science writer in Berlin