Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
- "The classification into races has proved to be a futile exercise."
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (born January 25, 1922) is an Italian population geneticist born in Genoa, and currently teaching since 1970 as emeritus professor at Stanford University. One of the most important geneticists of the 20th century, he has summed up his work for laymen under five topics covered in Genes, Peoples, and Languages (2000), which Jared Diamond praised for "demolishing scientists' attempts to classify human populations into races in the same way that they classify birds and other species into races."
Cavalli-Sforza has also written The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994 with Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza), and The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution (with his son Francesco). For geneticists, his tome The History and Geography of Human Genes is a standard.
Once the genetic structure of inheritance had been made plain, Cavalli-Sforza was one of the first scientists to ask whether the genes of modern populations might contain an inherited historical record of the human species. The study of demographics was already well-established, based on linguistic, cultural and archaeological clues, but it had become overlaid with nationalist and racist ideologies. He received his MD from the University of Pavia (1944). Cavalli-Sforza initiated a new field of research by combining the concrete findings of demography with a newly-available analysis of blood groups in an actual human population.
Cavalli-Sforza has singled out as spurs to his creative career early connections between migration patterns and blood groups like ABO and Rh-factor described by Robert Race, Arthur Mourant, and by R. A. Fisher especially.
His post-war studies at Cambridge in the area of bacterial genetics were followed by years of teaching in northern Italy, in Milan, Parma and Pavia, and a move in 1970 to Stanford, where he found the intellectual culture more open-ended and cooperative, and where he has remained.
- African Human Genome Initiative: Brief biography of Cavalli-Sforza
- Genes, Peoples, and Languages: book review
- The Great Human Diasporas - The History of Diversity and Evolution: book review
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