T. N. Avinash in The Wire:
John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964) is today best remembered as one of the founders of population genetics, which married Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Russell Wallace’s ideas of natural selection with Mendelian genetics using the language of statistics. His other scientific contributions spanned the fields of physiology, biochemistry, and medical genetics – contributions that the evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith once said would “satisfy half a dozen ordinary mortals”.
Haldane was also the most brilliant populariser of science of his generation, writing and speaking tirelessly about science and its role in society. A committed Marxist and anti-imperialist, Haldane believed that science and socialism went hand-in-hand, that they were our best means to improve society.
In A Dominant Character, his new biography of Haldane (out in India on December 10, 2019), Samanth Subramanian attempts to make sense of such a complex personality by seizing upon Haldane’s “greatest moral crisis”, one where science and politics collided head on. This was Haldane’s response to the infamous Lysenko affair of 1948, where within a span of just one week, the Soviet Union turned its back on genetics and evolutionary biology.