Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson

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Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson

(hôl`dān, –dən), 1892–1964, British geneticist, biologist, and popularizer of science; son of John Scott HaldaneHaldane, John Scott,
1860–1936, British scientist, b. Edinburgh; father of John Burdon Sanderson Haldane. He made many important contributions to mine safety, investigating principally the action of gases, the use of rescue equipment, and the incidence of pulmonary disease.
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. He studied at Oxford until his studies were interrupted by World War I; he worked on a genetics paper in the trenches. One of the most influential scientists of the 20th cent, he studied relationships among different disciplines and problems, including the consequence of Mendelian genetics on evolutionary theory, helping to create the science of evolutionary biology. He also studied the relationship between enzymology and genetics, and the application of mathematics and statistics to the study of biology. Haldane's works, which are numerous, include (with John S. Huxley) Animal Biology (1927), The Causes of Evolution (1937), New Paths in Genetics (1941), and Biochemistry of Genetics (1954). Haldane also wrote fiction and verse as well as political works in support of Marxism, notably The Marxist Philosophy and the Sciences (1938). Disillusioned with Marxism in the 1940s and 50s, he eventually moved to India to conduct scientific research.


See biographies by R. W. Clark (1984) and S. Subramanian (2020); study ed. by K. R. Dronamraju (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson


Born Nov. 5, 1892, in Oxford, England; died Dec. 1, 1964, in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. British biologist. Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1932). Member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (from 1937; member of the politburo, 1942–43; member of the political committee of the executive committee, 1943–45). Son of J. S. Haldane.

Haldane graduated from Oxford University in 1914. From 1922 to 1932 he taught at Cambridge University, and from 1933 to 1957 he occupied the chair of genetics and biometry at University College, London. In 1957, Haldane emigrated to India, where he headed a laboratory of genetics and biometry in Calcutta until 1961; he headed a similar laboratory in Bhubaneswar from 1961 until 1964.

Haldane’s principal works dealt with genetics, biochemistry, biometrics, mathematical statistics, and underwater physiology. He developed a mathematical theory for modeling the gene and linking hereditary factors and helped establish mathematical, molecular, and biochemical genetics. Haldane mathematically substantiated the theory of the kinetics of enzymatic catalysis (Enzymes, 1930; Russian translation, 1934). He also investigated the quantitative aspect (rates) of natural and artificial selection, showing that the elementary unit of evolution is not the individual but the population (The Causes of Evolution, 1932; Russian translation, 1935). In 1935 he determined the frequency of mutation of genes in humans, and in 1937 he introduced the concept of “genetic load.” In 1947 he calculated the probability of mutations in human populations as a result of the explosion of an atomic bomb.

Haldane was the author of several works on philosophical problems of natural science (Marxist Philosophy and the Sciences, 1938). In 1939 he prepared the first publication in English of F. Engels’ Dialectics of Nature and wrote a foreword and notes to it. Haldane was made a foreign honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1942. He was an honorary member of many other foreign academies of sciences and scientific societies. In 1977 an international scientific research center named in honor of Haldane was established in southern India, east of Trivandrum.


The Biochemistry of Genetics. London, 1954.
Reader of Popular Scientific Essays. Moscow, 1973.
In Russian translation:
“Proiskhozhdenie zhizni.” In Planeta Zemlia. Moscow, 1961. Pages 315–34.
“Uchenyi ukhodit iz zhizni” (auto-obituary). Za rubezhom, no. 52 (237), Dec. 26, 1964.


Fel’dman, G. E. Dzh. B. S. Kholdein: 1892–1964. Moscow, 1976.
Haldane and Modern Biology. Edited by K. R. Dronamraju. Baltimore, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.