We're saddened to pass along news of the death of evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis. She passed away yesterday at her Amherst home at the age of 73.
According to a statement issued by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Margulis taught from 1988 until her death, she was best known for her contributions to the theory of symbiogenesis:
She argued that inherited variation, significant in evolution, does not come mainly from random mutations. Rather, new tissues, organs, and even new species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers. The fusion of genomes in symbioses followed by natural selection, she suggests, leads to increasingly complex levels of individuality.
But Margulis also made crucial contributions to James Lovelock's Gaia theory, which holds that the surface elements of the earth form a self-sustaining system. It may have been her ability to link supposedly disparate scientific fields that constituted her distinctive mark as a scientist. As Robert Holub of UMass Amherst put it, "Of course she was a different kind of scientist, one who does not come along very often. Her great gift was making connections, connections that others just couldn’t make. She provided a stimulation to the campus community and the scientific community that was uniquely her own."
Margulis was the author or editor of three of our books, the most recent being Chimeras and Consciousness: Evolution of the Sensory Self, published this past spring.
She will be missed.