Events Archive






On Friday, 17th February at Shoreham Village Hall, Dr Mary Bliss provided a delightful background to her talk about her brother William Hamilton with her own illustrations of paintings executed from her home at Badgers Mount.

An award winning medallist in her own right, having pioneered the bed used worldwide for the prevention of bed sores, Dr. Bliss described her brother's life and work ending with his death at the age of 63 from malaria.

Dr Richard Dawkins, in his address recorded in The Independent in 2000, praised the genius of William Hamilton. Dr Dawkins explained that, "like Darwin, he was a superb field naturalist and explorer. Darwin would have enjoyed talking to Hamilton because they could have swapped jungle tales and beetle lore, partly because both were gentle and deep." Speaking about her brother, Dr Bliss conveyed these very qualities and although much of the talk discussed his career - he was Royal Society Research Professor, a Professional Fellow of New College, a Lecturer at Imperial College; he was showered with medals and honours by the academies and learned societies of the world, the audience had a clear idea of how long and lonely his life's work was and how hard it was for "Hamilton's Rule" to be accepted by his peers. Largely ignored for ten years, his paper eventually became one of the most cited in all of biology.

Dr Bliss said her brother was accident-prone, and vividly described a childhood experiment with explosives which cost him the top of his thumb and several finger tips. He hiked through Rwanda at the height of the civil war, looking for ants; he was held up at knife point in Brazil where he was viciously wounded, and other near death experiences. Finally, to gather evidence for the theory (of which he was a strong supporter) that the AIDS virus was originally introduced into the human population in an oral polio vaccine tested in Africa in the 1950s, Dr Hamilton went to the Congo jungle. He was rushed back to London with severe malaria from which he did not recover.

Shoreham And District
Historical Society
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The Shoreham Society
The Kent History Federation and
The Kent Archaeological Society

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Shoreham And District Historical Society