|Edmund Brisco "Henry" Ford|
January 1988 (aged 86)
|Alma mater||Oxford University|
|Notable awards||Royal Society's Darwin Medal|
Edmund Brisco "Henry" Ford FRS Hon. FRCP (23 April 1901 – 2 January 1988) was a British ecological geneticist. He was a leader among those British biologists who investigated the role of natural selection in nature. As a schoolboy Ford became interested in lepidoptera, the group of insects which includes butterflies and moths. He went on to study the genetics of natural populations, and invented the field of ecological genetics. Ford was awarded the Royal Society's Darwin Medal in 1954. Later, in 1968, he was awarded UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the popularisation of science.
Ford never married, had no children, and was considered decidedly eccentric. Non-academic information on his life is hard to come by, mostly consisting of scattered remarks made by colleagues. He campaigned strenuously against the admission of female Fellows to All Souls College. Miriam Rothschild, an outstanding zoologist, was one of the few women with whom Ford was on good terms. Rothschild and Ford campaigned for the legalisation of male homosexuality in Britain. Ford was on good terms with Theodosius Dobzhansky, who did ground-breaking work on ecological genetics with Drosophila species: they exchanged letters and visits.
Ford's career was based entirely at Oxford University. A.J. Cain said he took a degree in classics before turning to zoology. Ford read zoology at Oxford, and was taught genetics by Julian Huxley. "The lecturer whose interests most closely reflected mine was Julian Huxley. I owe him a great debt, especially for inspiration... Even though Huxley was... only at Oxford from 1919 to 1925, he was the most powerful voice in developing the selectionist attitude there... I met Ray Lankester through E.B. Poulton. He was already an old man... but talked to me a good deal of Charles Darwin and Pasteur, both of whom he knew." 
Ford was appointed University Demonstrator in Zoology in 1927 and Lecturer at University College, Oxford in 1933. Specialising in genetics, he was appointed University Reader in Genetics in 1939 and was the Director of the Genetics Laboratory, 1952-1969, and Professor of Ecological Genetics 1963-1969. Ford was one of the first scientists to be elected a Fellow of All Souls College since the seventeenth century.
Ford had a long working relationship with R.A. Fisher. By the time Ford had developed his formal definition of genetic polymorphism, Fisher had got accustomed to high selection values in nature. He was most impressed by the fact that polymorphism concealed powerful selective forces (Ford gave human blood groups as an example). Like Fisher, he continued the natural selection versus genetic drift debate with Sewall Wright, whom Ford believed put too much emphasis on genetic drift. It was as a result of Ford's work, as well as his own, that Dobzhansky changed the emphasis in the third edition of his famous text from drift to selection.
Ford was an experimental naturalist who wanted to test evolution in nature. He virtually invented the field of research known as ecological genetics. His work on the wild populations of butterflies and moths was the first to show that the predictions made by R.A. Fisher were correct. He was the first to describe and define genetic polymorphism, and predicted that human blood group polymorphisms might be maintained in the population by providing some protection against disease. Six years after this prediction it was found to be so, and furthermore, heterozygous advantage was decisively established by a study of AB x AB crosses. His magnum opus was Ecological Genetics, which ran to four editions and was widely influential. He laid much of the groundwork for subsequent studies in this field, and was invited as a consultant to help set up similar research groups in several other countries.
Amongst Ford's many publications, perhaps the most popularly successful was the first book in the New Naturalist series, Butterflies. Ford also went on in 1955 to write Moths  in the same series, one of only a few to have authored more than one book in the series.
Ford became Professor, and then Emeritus Professor of Ecological Genetics, University of Oxford. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, and Honorary Fellow of Wadham College. He was elected FRS in 1946, and awarded the Darwin Medal in 1954.
E.B. Ford worked for many years on genetic polymorphism. Polymorphism in natural populations is frequent; the key feature is the occurrence together of two or more discontinuous forms of a species in some kind of balance. So long as the proportions of each form is above mutation rate, then selection must be the cause. As early as 1930 Fisher had discussed a situation where, with alleles at a single locus, the heterozygote is more viable than either homozygote. That is a typical genetic mechanism for causing this type of polymorphism. The work involves a synthesis of field observations, taxonomy, and laboratory genetics. 
The entomologist Michael Majerus discussed criticisms that had been made of Kettlewell's experimental methods in his 1998 book Melanism: Evolution in Action. This book was misrepresented in reviews, and the story was picked up by creationist campaigners. In her controversial book Of Moths and Men, Judith Hooper (2002) gave a critical account of Ford's supervision and relationship with Kettlewell, and implied that the work was fraudulent or at least incompetent. Careful studies of Kettlewell's surviving papers by Rudge (2005) and Young (2004) found Hooper's suggestion of fraud to be unjustified, and that "Hooper does not provide one shred of evidence to support this serious allegation”. Majerus himself described Of Moths and Men as "littered with errors, misrepresentations, misinterpretations and falsehoods".