Happy birthday Richard Dawkins!

Richard Dawkins in 2010
Richard Dawkins in 2010

Clinton Richard Dawkins (photo ©David Shankbone) was born in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 26, 1941. His father worked in the British colonial service and served in the Allied forces during World War II.

In 1949 the Dawkins family returned to England and young Richard studied zoology at Oxford, where he carried out his research studies tutored by Nobel Prize ethologist Niko Tinbergen. After obtaining his M.A. and D.Phil in 1966 Dawkins moved to the University of California, Berkeley, in the USA, where he was an assistant in the department of zoology of the faculty of biology between 1967 and 1969.

In 1970 Richard Dawkins returned to Oxford as a professor of zoology. In 1976 Dawkins published the essay that made ​​him famous, “The Selfish Gene”, which introduced the concept of meme. It was the first in a series of essays dedicated to evolution such as “The Blind Watchmaker”.

During the debate about evolutionism Richard Dawkins had several disagreements on some evolutionary mechanisms with American paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, with whom however there has never been hostility on a personal level. In fact in 2003 Dawkins dedicated a section of his essay “A Devil’s Chaplain” to Gould, who had died the year before.

Over the years Richard Dawkins has increased his celebrity because he’s openly atheist and critic of religion. In several essays Dawkins demolishes the pseudo-arguments made ​​by creationists in their various forms, ranging from those who affirm the historical reality of the Bible to the advocates of the so-called “intelligent design”.

Richard Dawkins in particular has always fought the creationists attempts to subtly introduce the teaching of their beliefs in schools trying to to put them on the same level as real scientific knowledge.

Richard Dawkins has dedicated to the problem of religion his 2006 essay “The God Delusion” and in the same year the documentary “The Root of All Evil?”, later aired with the title “The God Delusion”. In 2007 Dawkins presented the documentary “The Enemies of Reason”, which in some ways reprised “The Root of All Evil?” expanding its subject to irrational beliefs in general.

In 2010 Richard Dawkins took part to a television series devoted to British science with other scientists such as Stephen Hawking, James Dyson, Paul Nurse and Jim Al-Khalili.

Over the years Richard Dawkins has received several awards for his contributions to science and others for his humanistic commitment.

Richard Dawkins has been married twice. His second and current wife is the actress Lalla Ward, who during her career worked in the famous television series “Doctor Who”. In 2008 Dawkins made ​​an appearance playing himself in the new series of “Doctor Who”.

Surely Professor Richard Dawkins will continue his work of popularization of science and rationality. Let’s hope he can go on for many more years!

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