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.