Richard D. Alexander

Richard D. Alexander is an Emeritus Professor and Emeritus Curator of Insects at the Museum of Zoology of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Prof. Alexander scientific pursuits integrate the fields of systematics, ecology, evolution, natural history and behaviour; the salient organisms in his research are equally wide-ranging, from the orthopterans (grasshoppers, katydids and crickets) and cicadidae (cicadas) to vertebrates: dogs, horses, primates, and, of course, humans.


Richard D. Alexander obtained an associate of arts degree from Blackburn College (Carlinville, Illinois) in 1948, a bachelor of science in education (biology) and a PhD from Ohio State University in 1956. Dr. Alexander taught for over 40 years two graduate courses in alternate fall semesters: evolutionary ecology and evolution and behaviour; during these semesters he dedicated all his time to prepare his lecture materials — fresh and up-to-date every year — which included many a time novel, provocative ideas from his own students and university colleagues; amongst which Prof. Donald W. Tinkle, curator of herpetology at the UMMZ and evolutionary biologist, was very prominent until his death in 1980. His course lectures were perhaps the most popular in the schools of natural sciences and natural resources at the university and were often attended by other faculty members and visiting students including many from the social sciences (anthropology, geography, sociology, psychology, etcetera).

In 1974 he created a detailed model for a eusocial vertebrate, having no idea that a mammal with these characteristics actually existed. It turned out that his hypothetical eusocial rodent was a "perfect description" of the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber).[1]


Richard Alexander's publications relate to the evolution of behaviour and its bearing on human nature and have occupied a central place in his research at least since 1969 when he presented The search for an evolutionary philosophy of man in Australia. Now, that he is retired from the academy (only nominally, as he remains very active), he devotes most of his time to his horse farm, where he breeds, reins, trains and rides them. But even in so empirical a field he has managed to fully utilise his evolutionary philosophy; nowadays his lecture tours include meetings with professionally interested horse breeders and his most recent publications are devoted to that topic.

On humans


* Darwinism and Human Affairs. Seattle: U. Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95641-0 1979.
* The Biology of Moral Systems. New York: Aldine De Gruyter. ISBN 0-202-01174-7 1987
* Natural Selection and Social Behavior. Recent Research and New Theory. New York: Chiron Press. with D. W. Tinkle (eds.). 1981


* The search for an evolutionary philosophy of man. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne 84: 99-120. 1971
* The evolution of social behaviour. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 5:325-383. 1974
* Group selection, altruism, and the levels of organization of life. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 9: 449—474. With G. Borgia. 1978
* Epigenetic rules and Darwinian algorithms: The adaptive study of learning and development. Ethology and Sociobiology 11:241-303. 1990
* How Did Humans Evolve? Reflections on the Uniquely Unique Species.Kantutan University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Special Publication 1:1-38. 1990
* Biological considerations in the analysis of morality. In: M. H. and D. V. Nitecki (eds.). Evolutionary Ethics. State University of New York Press, pp. 162–196. 1993

On horses

* Teaching Yourself to Train Your Horse. Woodlane Farm Books. ISBN 0-9712314-0-0 2001

Children's reading

* The Red Fox and Johnny Valentine’s Blue-Speckled Hound. Woodlane Farm Books. ISBN 0-9712314-2-7 2004
* Thumping on Trees. Woodlane Farm Books. ISBN 978-0-9712314-4-3

Distinctions and awards

* Recipient of AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize in 1961
* Amoco Foundation Good Teaching Award in 1977
* Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974
* Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from The University of Michigan in 1981
* Russell Lectureship 1988
* The University of Michigan LSA Senior Distinguished Lecturer in 1994


1. ^ Stanton Braude (July–August 1997). "The Predictive Power of Evolutionary Biology and the Discovery of Eusociality in the Naked Mole Rat". Reports of the National Center for Science Education (National Center for Science Education) 17 (4): 12–15. Retrieved 2010-02-02.

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