A. W. F. Edwards

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A. W. F. Edwards
File:Anthony William Fairbank Edwards FRS.jpg
Edwards in 2015, portrait from the Royal Society
Born Anthony William Fairbank Edwards
(1935-10-04) October 4, 1935 (age 84)[1]
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Notable awards FRS (2015)[2]

Anthony William Fairbank Edwards, FRS[2] (born 1935) is a British statistician, geneticist, and evolutionary biologist, sometimes called "Fisher's Edwards"[citation needed] because he was mentored by Ronald Fisher.

Career and research

6-set Edwards–Venn diagram

Edwards is a Life Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge[3] and retired Professor of Biometry at the University of Cambridge, and holds both the ScD and LittD degrees. He has written several books and numerous scientific papers. He is best known for his pioneering work, with L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, on quantitative methods of phylogenetic analysis, and for strongly advocating Fisher's concept of likelihood as the proper basis for statistical and scientific inference. He has also written extensively on the history of genetics and statistics, including an analysis of whether Mendel's results were "too good", and also on purely mathematical subjects, such as Venn diagrams.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

In a 2003 paper,[11] Edwards criticized Richard Lewontin's argument in a 1972 paper that race is an invalid taxonomic construct, terming it Lewontin's fallacy.

After one postdoctoral research year he was invited by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza to the University of Pavia, where, in 1961-1964, they initiated the statistical approach to the construction of evolutionary trees from genetical data, using the first modern computers. A year at Stanford University was followed by three years as Senior Lecturer in Statistics at the University of Aberdeen supervised by D. J. Finney and then two years as a Bye-Fellow in Science at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, during which he wrote his book Likelihood.[2]

The remainder of Professor Edwards’s career has been spent at Cambridge, ultimately as Professor of Biometry, during which he has published widely, including books on Venn Diagrams, Mathematical Genetics, and Pascal's triangle.[2]


  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1972. Likelihood. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (expanded edition, 1992, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore). ISBN 0-8018-4443-6
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1977. Foundations of Mathematical Genetics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2nd ed., 2000). ISBN 0-521-77544-2
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1987. Pascal's Arithmetical Triangle: The Story of a Mathematical Idea. Charles Griffin, London (paperback edition, 2002, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore). ISBN 0-8018-6946-3
  • David, H.A. and A.W.F. Edwards. 2001. Annotated Readings in the History of Statistics. Springer, New York. ISBN 0-387-98844-0
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 2004. Cogwheels of the Mind: The Story of Venn Diagrams. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. ISBN 0-8018-7434-3
  • Keynes, M., A.W.F. Edwards and R. Peel, eds. 2004. A Century of Mendelism in Human Genetics. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. ISBN 0-415-32960-4
  • Franklin, A., A.W.F. Edwards, D.J. Fairbanks, D.L. Hartl and T. Seidenfeld. 2008. Ending the Mendel-Fisher Controversy. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh. ISBN 0-8229-4319-0

Selected papers

  • Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and A.W.F. Edwards. 1964. Analysis of human evolution. Genetics Today 3:923–933.
  • Edwards, A.W.F, and L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. 1964. Reconstruction of evolutionary trees. pp. 67–76 in Phenetic and Phylogenetic Classification, ed. V. H. Heywood and J. McNeill. Systematics Association pub. no. 6, London.
  • Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and A.W.F. Edwards. 1967. Phylogenetic analysis: models and estimation procedures. American Journal of Human Genetics 19:233–257.
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1969. Statistical methods in scientific inference. Nature 222:1233–1237.
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1974. The history of likelihood. International Statistical Review 42:9–15.
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1986. Are Mendel's results really too close? Biological Reviews 61:295–312.
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 1996. The origin and early development of the method of minimum evolution for the reconstruction of phylogenetic trees. Systematic Biology 45:79–91.
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 2000. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Genetics 154:1419–1426.
  • Edwards, A.W.F. 2003. Human genetic diversity: Lewontin's fallacy. BioEssays 25:798–801.

Awards and honours

Edwards was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2015.[2]

Personal life

His elder brother John H. Edwards (1928–2007) was also a geneticist and also an FRS; their father, Harold C. Edwards, was a surgeon. He was awarded the Telesio-Galilei Academy Award in 2011 for Biology.

Edwards is also known for his involvement in gliding, particularly within the Cambridge University Gliding Club and for his writing on the subject in Sailplane and Gliding magazine as "The Armchair Pilot".


  1. 1.0 1.1 EDWARDS, Prof. Anthony William Fairbank. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription required)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Professor Anthony (A.W.F.) Edwards FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies at the Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2015)

  3. "Professor Anthony Edwards". Gonville & Caius College. Retrieved 2 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Interview with Edwards
  5. A Realised Path: The Cambridge Statistical Laboratory upto (sic) 1993 (revised 2002)
  6. Cambridge University Library photograph of Edwards as Chairman of the Library Syndicate making a presentation to the President of Israel
  7. Edwards inspired the window in the Hall of Caius College, celebrating Venn and Fisher, former fellows and heroes of Edwards
  8. A collection of R. A. Fisher quotations compiled by A.W.F. Edwards
  9. Kiernan, Jim. "Review of Cogwheels of the Mind". Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 2 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Felsenstein, J. (2004). Inferring Phylogenies. Sinauer, Sunderland, Mass. ISBN 0-87893-177-5
  11. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).