British scientist whose books on genetics and evolution have found a wide general readership.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Dawkins studied at Oxford, then taught at the University of California, Berkeley (1967–69), before returning to Oxford as a fellow of New College. Dawkins made his name with The Selfish Gene (1976, revised 1989), in which he argued that apparently altruistic acts on the part of living organisms are in reality ‘selfish’ in that their outcome has an evolutionary advantage. In 1985 and 1986 Dawkins appeared as a presenter on BBC's science programme Horizon.
In The Blind Watchmaker (1986) Dawkins argued that minor mutations play a significant role in maintaining the momentum of evolution. The Blind Watchmaker was honoured with the 1987 Royal Society of Literature Prize and the Los Angeles Times Literary Prize. Dawkins received the Silver Medal of the Royal Zoological Society in 1989 and the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Award the following year. Dawkins's later books include River Out of Eden (1995) and Climbing Mount Improbable (1996). In 1996 he became Britain's first professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University.