An Early History of the Heritability Coefficient Applied to Humans

Biological Theory 17 (2):126-137 (2022)
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Fisher’s 1918 paper accomplished two distinct goals: unifying discrete Mendelian genetics with continuous biometric phenotypes and quantifying the variance components of variation in complex human characteristics. The former contributed to the foundation of modern quantitative genetics; the latter was adopted by social scientists interested in the pursuit of Galtonian nature-nurture questions about the biological and social origins of human behavior, especially human intelligence. This historical divergence has produced competing notions of the estimation of variance ratios referred to as heritability. Jay Lush showed that they could be applied to selective breeding on the farm, while the early twin geneticists used them as a descriptive statistic to describe the degree of genetic determination in complex human traits. Here we trace the early history of the heritability coefficient now used by social scientists.



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Stephen M. Downes
University of Utah

References found in this work

Genetics and Reductionism.Sahotra Sarkar - 2012 - Cambridge University Press.
Genetics and Reductionism.Sahotra Sarkar - 2000 - Philosophical Quarterly 50 (198):128-130.
Heredity, environment, and the question "how?".Anne Anastasi - 1958 - Psychological Review 65 (4):197-208.
The causes of human variability.Ronald A. Fisher - 1919 - The Eugenics Review 10 (4):213.
Neuroticism in twins.Hans J. Eysenck - 1951 - The Eugenics Review 43 (2):79.

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