Joe Felsenstein
Joseph "Joe" Felsenstein (born 1942) is Professor in the Departments of Genome Sciences and Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 and Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Computer Science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

 and Statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 at the University of Washington
University of Washington
University of Washington is a public research university, founded in 1861 in Seattle, Washington, United States. The UW is the largest university in the Northwest and the oldest public university on the West Coast. The university has three campuses, with its largest campus in the University...

 in Seattle. He is best known for his work on phylogenetic inference, and is the author of Inferring Phylogenies, and principal author and distributor of the package of phylogenetic inference programs called PHYLIP
PHYLIP is a free computational phylogenetics package of programs for inferring evolutionary trees . The name is an acronym for PHYLogeny Inference Package. It consists of 35 portable programs, i.e...

. Closely related to his work on phylogenetic inference is his introduction of methods for making statistically independent comparisons using phylogenies (Felsenstein, 1985).

Felsenstein did his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

 where he did undergraduate research under James F. Crow
James F. Crow
James F. Crow is Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.Some of his most significant peer-reviewed contributions were coauthored with Motoo Kimura. His major contribution to the field, however, is arguably his teaching...

. He then did doctoral work under Richard Lewontin
Richard Lewontin
Richard Charles "Dick" Lewontin is an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist and social commentator. A leader in developing the mathematical basis of population genetics and evolutionary theory, he pioneered the notion of using techniques from molecular biology such as gel electrophoresis to...

 in the 1960s, when he was at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

, and did a postdoc at the Institute of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 prior to becoming faculty at the University of Washington
University of Washington
University of Washington is a public research university, founded in 1861 in Seattle, Washington, United States. The UW is the largest university in the Northwest and the oldest public university on the West Coast. The university has three campuses, with its largest campus in the University...


In addition to his work in phylogenetics, he is also noted for his work in theoretical population genetics, including studies on selection, migration, linkage, speciation, and the coalescent
Coalescent theory
In genetics, coalescent theory is a retrospective model of population genetics. It attempts to trace all alleles of a gene shared by all members of a population to a single ancestral copy, known as the most recent common ancestor...


Felsenstein is a member of the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

. He was awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal
Darwin-Wallace Medal
The Darwin–Wallace Medal is a medal awarded by the Linnean Society of London for "major advances in evolutionary biology". Historically, the medals have been awarded every 50 years, beginning in 1908...

 by the Linnean Society of London
Linnean Society of London
The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history. It publishes a zoological journal, as well as botanical and biological journals...

 in 2008. In 2009 he was awarded the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences.

He is the older brother of early personal computer designer Lee Felsenstein
Lee Felsenstein
Lee Felsenstein is an American computer engineer who played a central role in the development of the personal computer...

. He was a Red Diaper Baby
Red diaper baby
Red diaper baby describes a child of parents who were members of the United States Communist Party or were close to the party or sympathetic to its aims.-History:...

 (child of CPUSA members) and was named after Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...



  • Felsenstein, J., and B. Taylor, eds. 1973. A Bibliography of Theoretical Population Genetics. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Technical Information Center, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
  • Felsenstein, J. 2004. Inferring Phylogenies. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Mass.
  • Felsenstein, J. 2005. Theoretical Evolutionary Genetics (free ebook)

Selected papers

  • Felsenstein, J. 1973. Maximum likelihood and minimum-steps methods for estimating evolutionary trees from data on discrete characters. Systematic Zoology 22:240-249.
  • Felsenstein, J. 1981. Evolutionary trees from DNA sequences: a maximum likelihood approach. Journal of Molecular Evolution 17:368-376.
  • Felsenstein, J. 1982. Numerical methods for inferring evolutionary trees. Quarterly Review of Biology 57:379-404.
  • Felsenstein, J. 1985. Phylogenies and the comparative method. American Naturalist 125:1-15.
  • Felsenstein, J. 1988. Phylogenies from molecular sequences: inference and reliability. Annual Review of Genetics 22:521-565.

See also

  • Phylogenetic comparative methods
    Phylogenetic comparative methods
    Phylogenetic comparative methods use information on the evolutionary relationships of organisms to compare species...

  • Phylogenetics
    In biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms , which is discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices...

  • Systematics
    Biological systematics is the study of the diversification of terrestrial life, both past and present, and the relationships among living things through time. Relationships are visualized as evolutionary trees...

  • Felsenstein's tree pruning algorithm

External links

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