Molecular Evolution Activities

Documents on Molecular Evolution

Profiles-Thomas Jukes

Thomas Jukes (1906-1999) had a long and distinguished career in nutrition science and molecular evolution. He had a penchant both for creating controversy and for getting involved in controversies already brewing. In addition to his naming his brand of the neutral theory "Non-Darwinian Evolution" (with the specific intent of provoking evolutionary biologists) Jukes also advocated for the use of pesticides and hormones in food production, argued against a ban on DDT in the early-1970s, and fought for the increased teaching of evolution in secondary education.

Jukes received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Toronto in1933, and was a faculty member at UC-Davis from 1934-1942, where he studied the nutritional requirements of poultry. In 1942, he accepted a position at Lederle Laboratories, where he helped develop antibiotics and cancer therapies. Among his accomplishments during this period was the discovery of the role of folic acid in development, He also played a crucial role in the synthesis of the chemotheraputic drug methotrexate.

In 1963, fascinated by the stunning advances that had taken place in molecular biology over the past 10 years--including the elucidation of the structure of DNA and the genetic code--Jukes decided to return to UC-Berkeley (where he had done post-doctoral work)--under the auspices of a NASA-funded grant entitled "Chemistry of Living Systems." Jukes was initially interested in how molecular biology could help scientists understand the evolution of life. His 1966 book, Molecules and Evolution, is an early exploration of the implications of the existence of large quantities of sequence variation in the cytochrome c molecules of various species. In 1969, Jukes and Jack King put forth their definitive statement of the neutral theory in a paper entitled, "Non-Darwinian Evolution." They argued that the rate of protein evolution in non-essential regions occurred much too quickly to be accounted for by Haldane's cost of selection, and were therefore most likely the result of mutation and drift. This was the same conclusion that Motoo Kimura reached independently in 1968.

By the mid-1970s, Jukes had mostly moved away from the field of molecular evolution, writing about topics like education and continuing his crusade against what he perceived to be 'quack' cures for disease. In the 1970s and 1980s, Jukes was awarded numerous prizes and medals for his lifetime of contributions to nutrition and cancer research. He died in November 1999 at the age of 93.

Selected Bibliography of Jukes's work on molecular evolution:

  • Thomas Jukes, Molecules and Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966).
  • T.H. Jukes and C.R. Cantor, "Evolution of protein molecules," in H.N. Munro (ed.), Mammalian Protein Metabolism (New York: Academic Press, 1969), pp. 21-32.
  • J.L. King and T.H Jukes, "Non-Darwinian Evolution," Science (1969), 164: 788-798.
  • T.H. Jukes, "Evolution of the amino acid code," in M. Nei and R. K. Koehn (eds.), Evolution of Genes and Protein (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 1983), pp. 191-207.
  • T.H. Jukes and M. Kimura, "Evolutionary constraints and the neutral theory," Journal of Molecular Evolution (1984), 21: 90-92.
  • T.H. Jukes, "A Change in the genetic code of Mycoplasma capricolum," Journal of Molecular Evolution (1985), 22: 361-362.
  • T.H. Jukes, "Early development of the neutral theory," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1991), 34: 473-485.
  • T.H. Jukes, "The neutral theory of molecular evolution," Genetics (2000), 154(3): 956-958.

This page was written by Jay Aronson. It was last updated on 9/9/2004.