A Brief History

We have a distinguished history of evolutionary biology at UW-Madison. World-renowned theoretical population geneticist James F. Crow (1916-2012) was one of the founders of the field of molecular evolution, and served on the Genetics faculty at the University of Wisconsin starting in 1948. He remained an active member of the Evolutionary Biology community throughout his retirement.

Sewall Wright (1889-1988), the father of American theoretical population genetics spent the latter part of his career in Madison. A list of books in Sewall Wright’s library is here.

  • In 2004, the Evolution Community on the UW campus established the Evolution Initiative, a grassroots effort to organize the community and advance the discipline on campus.  With financial support from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,and administrative support from the Laboratory of Genetics, the Evolution Initiative grew in size and impact.  The Evolution Coordinating Committee (ECC), an elected body composed of faculty, students, and staff, was formed. A weekly Evolution Seminar Series was started and, in 2006, we began the tradition of offering an annual Darwin Day Outreach symposium.
  • In 2009, the Evolution Initiative requested permission to become the J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution, a cross-college institute supported by the Colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Letters & Science.  The University Academic Planning Council granted the request on January 21, 2010, and David Baum, Professor of Botany, was appointed Director.
  • Following David Baum’s tenure, Nicole Perna served as Director, followed by Chris Hittinger.