Born by the name of Ronald Aylmer Fisher in London, England on 17th February 1890, this British statistician and geneticist single-handedly revolutionized the field of modern genetics through his work on eugenics, biostatistics, population genetics and heredity.
An absolute polymath, Fisher, after his graduation in mathematics, astronomy and statistics, turned his keen interest towards research in genetics. He had an obsession for evolutionary theory and its consequences for the living world. This led to the opening of the Cambridge University Eugenics society through his single-minded initiative. Further, Fisher also tried to bridge the gap between Darwin’s ideas of natural selection and Mendel’s laws. Working at Rothamstead experimental station for 14 years, he developed the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and came to be known as a great biostatistician too.
Fisher even is known to be one of the big three principle founders of population genetics. His paper, “The Correlation between relatives on the supposition of Mendelian inheritance” gave birth to the term variance and its analysis. Fisher also postulated a Genetics conceptual model which showed that ‘the continuous variation amongst phenotypic traits could be produced by combination action of discrete genes and thus be the result of Mendelian inheritance’.
He was also the first to use diffusion equation to calculate the distinction of allele frequencies and genetic linkage estimation in 1928. His book, “The Genetical Theory of Natural selection”, published in 1930; is one of the most cited sources in biology books around the world. It gave rise to important concepts such as Fisherian runaway, Fisher’s principle, reproductive value, Fisher’s geometric model, Heterozygote advantage and locus dominance. Even his interest in human genetics is well documented as per his communications with serologist C. Todd.
His various correspondence with Todd reveals that Fisher was the first to suggest that the antigens detected by serological agglutination assays may be ‘the direct products of individual genes rather than have secondary reactions’. It is known that he also worked on an interpretation of the Rhesus blood groups which then led to further research in HLA (Human leukocyte antigen) system. At the outset, Fisher brought to biology, the effectiveness and elegance of mathematics that took genetics to an echelon, unimagined at the time. And so, this modern era of eugenics and population genetics can be rightly called the Era of Ronald Fisher.