John Maynard Smith

(6 January 1920 – 19 April 2004)

John Maynard Smith

John Maynard Smith

John Maynard Smith was one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, remembered for his contributions to genetics and evolutionary biology, and was one of the British Humanist Association‘s distinguished supporter of Humanism.

He was deeply committed to his work and to making scientific ideas accessible, and inspired many younger scientists. He continued writing and research well after normal retirement age, publishing his last book, Animal Signals, the year before he died.

He will also be remembered for his good humour and for the affection he inspired amongst colleagues and students.

In a Humanist News interview published in 2001, he described how exciting he found “the mixture of extreme rational science, blasphemy and imagination” in the essays of J B S Haldane he read as a schoolboy.

He said of religion:

I am tolerant because religious institutions facilitate some very important work that would not get done otherwise, but then I look around and see what an incredible amount of damage religion is doing…It would not matter so much that people believe lies, but when they go out and beat other people up because they believe different lies, that’s another thing.

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