Robert L. Trivers is an American evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist,
most noted for proposing the theories of reciprocal altruism (1971),
parental investment (1972), and parent-offspring conflict (1974).
Other areas in which he has made influential contributions include
an adaptive view of self-deception (first described in 1976) and
intragenomic conflict. Along with George C. Williams, Trivers
is arguably one of the two most influential evolutionary theorists
originally went to Harvard to study Math, but wound up studying
U.S. history in preparation to become a lawyer. He took a psychology
class after suffering a breakdown, and was very unimpressed with
the state of psychology. He was prevented from getting into Yale
law school by his breakdown, and wound up with a job writing social
science textbooks for children (never published, due in part to
presenting evolution by natural selection as fact).
exposure to evolutionary theory led him to graduate work with
Ernst Mayr at Harvard 1968-1972 (he never got a bachelor's degree
anywhere). He was on faculty at Harvard 1973-1978, then moved
to UC Santa Cruz.
met Huey P. Newton, Chairman of the Black Panther Party, in 1978
when Newton applied (while in prison) to do a reading course with
him as part of a graduate degree in History of Consciousness at
UC Santa Cruz. Trivers and Newton became close friends, Newton
was godfather to one of Trivers' daughters.
joined the Black Panther Party in 1979. Trivers and Newton published
an analysis of the role of self-deception by the flight crew in
the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 (Trivers, R.L. & Newton,
H.P. Science Digest 'The crash of flight 90: doomed by self-deception?'
November 1982, pp 66,67,111).
was a faculty member at UC Santa Cruz 1978-1994. He is currently
a Rutgers University notable faculty member. He was named one
of the 100 greatest thinkers and scientists of the 20th Century
by 'Time' magazine.