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John Maynard Smith dies

DOI: 10.1186/gb-spotlight-20040427-01

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Maynard Smith was probably most widely known for applying game theory to evolutionary biology. Originally developed in 1944 by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgentern, game theory is a mathematical model used by economists to study the outcomes of interactions between 'collaborators' and 'enemies' in situations in which neither can entirely predict the actions of the other, but can adapt their behavior according to what they see the other doing.Maynard Smith applied game theory to interactions between competing individuals of the same species that use different stratagems for survival.Imagine combat in which each individual must decide whether or not to escalate the fight without knowing his opponent's decision. Maynard Smith showed, with George Price, that the interests of both combatants are best served if both decide not to escalate the fight.In 1982, he published Evolution and the Theory of Games. In it, he described an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). An ESS is a stable collaborative situation that, if adopted by the majority of individuals in a population, will resist invasion by individuals with a new survival strategy.He was also known for his work on the adaptive value of sexual reproduction and for having demonstrated the 'twofold cost of sex'. Also known as the 'cost of males', this theory suggests that if an asexual individual were introduced into a sexually reproducing population, asexual reproduction would soon take over.In a population of sexual individuals, it takes two individuals to produce one. Alone, a female capable of reproducing parthenogenetically can produce as many individuals as any pair of sexually reproducing individuals. Since males contribute nothing to the offspring, the asexual subpopulation will grow twice as fast as its sexual counterpart.John Maynard Smith was born in Somerset, England. He was educated at prestigious Eton College, which he disliked. There, he discovered the work of geneticist H.B.S. Haldane, who was to become a

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