Fisher’s undergraduate honor’s thesis and GWAS

We’ve been working through Fisher’s undergraduate honor’s thesis (actually the version that was published in 1918) for the last several lectures, and we’ll have a very brief introduction to genome-wide association mapping (GWAS) and genomic prediction in the final two lectures of the semester. Peter Visscher and Michael E. Goddard just published a relevant paper in Genetics:”From R.A. Fisher’s 1918 Paper to GWAS a Century Later” ( Here’s the abstract, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. It’s short and well-written.

The genetics and evolution of complex traits, including quantitative traits and disease, have been hotly debated ever since Darwin. A century ago, a paper from R.A. Fisher reconciled Mendelian and biometrical genetics in a landmark contribution that is now accepted as the main foundation stone of the field of quantitative genetics. Here, we give our perspective on Fisher’s 1918 paper in the context of how and why it is relevant in today’s genome era. We mostly focus on human trait variation, in part because Fisher did so too, but the conclusions are general and extend to other natural populations, and to populations undergoing artificial selection.

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