R.A. Fisher, Lancelot Hogben, and the Origin(s) of Genotype-Environment Interaction

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Tabery, James
preprint description
This essay examines the origin(s) of genotype-environment interaction, or G×E. “Origin(s)” and not “the origin” because the thesis is that there were actually two distinct concepts of G×E at this beginning: a biometric concept, or G×EB, and a developmental concept, or G×ED. R. A. Fisher, one of the founders of population genetics and the creator of the statistical analysis of variance, introduced the biometric concept as he attempted to resolve one of the main problems in the biometric tradition of biology—partitioning the relative contributions of nature and nurture responsible for variation in a population. Lancelot Hogben, an experimental embryologist and also a statistician, introduced the developmental concept as he attempted to resolve one of the main problems in the developmental tradition of biology—determining the role that developmental relationships between genotype and environment played in the generation of variation. To argue for this thesis, I outline Fisher and Hogben’s separate routes to their respective concepts of G×E; then these separate interpretations of G×E are drawn on to explicate a debate between Fisher and Hogben over the importance of G×E, the first installment of a persistent controversy. Finally, Fisher’s G×EB and Hogben’s G×ED are traced beyond their own work into mid-20th C. population and developmental genetics, and then into the infamous IQ Controversy of the 1970’s.