Brian Charlesworth

University of Edinburgh

Primary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Section: 26, Genetics
Membership Type:
International Member (elected 2013)


Brian Charlesworth is a Senior Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. He is an evolutionary biologist, whose research interests are in theoretical and experimental population genetics, molecular and genome evolution, and life-history evolution. He was born in Brighton, England in 1945, and grew up mainly in London. He obtained his PhD in genetics from the University of Cambridge in 1969, and was a postdoctoral fellow with Richard Lewontin at the University of Chicago. He subsequently worked at the Universities of Liverpool, Sussex and Chicago, moving to Edinburgh as a Royal Society Research Professor from 1997 to 2007, and retiring from his position as Professorial Fellow in 2010. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 2000, and the Darwin-Wallace medal of the Linnean Society in 2010. He has published over 200 research papers and three books (two co-authored with Deborah Charlesworth).

Research Interests

My current research focusses on the application of population genetics theory to the analysis and interpretation of data on molecular variation and evolution. I have been particularly interested in the consequences of differences in rates of genetic recombination across the genome on the efficacy of natural selection and on levels of genetic variation. This involves modeling of both selective sweeps (in which new favorable mutations affect allele frequencies at linked sites) and background selection (in which selection against rare deleterious mutations reduces variants at linked sites). Recently, my coworkers and I have shown that the neglected process of associative overdominance forms part of a continuum with background selection, and may be influencing patterns of genetic variation in low recombination genomic regions. Currently, my collaborators and I are investigating how interactions between selection at linked sites, recombination rate and population size changes may influence patterns of genetic variation within populations.

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