Alister Hardy

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Sir Alister Clavering Hardy (born February 10, 1896 in Nottingham , † May 22 or 24, 1985 in Oxford ) was a British marine biologist. He was known for marine biology publications and the water monkey hypothesis .


Hardy was a graduate of the elite boarding school at Oundle and enrolled at Exeter College , Oxford in the fall of 1914 to study biology.

In the First World War he was drafted into the military, most of the time he was deployed in homeland security in the north of the country. In 1919 he was able to continue his studies at Oxford. Hardy became a student of Julian Huxley for some time . Through him Hardy got a job as an assistant at the Fisheries Laboratory in Lowestoft . There he was able to research the life of the Atlantic herring and its dependence on zooplankton .

For some time, Hardy went to the Institute of Oceanography at the University of Naples . Hardly back in Great Britain in 1925 he was appointed chief zoologist for the Discovery Oceanographic Expedition . Until 1927 Hardy helped to research the relationship between plankton and whales . Upon his return, Hardy accepted a call from Kingston-upon-Hull University in 1928 . There he worked as a professor of zoology until 1942. In that year Hardy went as Regius Professor of Natural History at the University of Aberdeen and worked there until 1946. He then accepted a call from his college in Oxford and stayed there until his retirement in 1962.

From 1965 to 1969, Hardy was President of the Society for Psychical Research .

During his time in Kingston-upon-Hull in 1930, while reading Man's Place amongst the Mammals by Wood Jones , Hardy's water monkey hypothesis emerged . However, he did not publish it until 1960 in his article "What man more aquatic in history" in the journal " New Scientist ". At first it received little attention. It was only when it was picked up by Desmond Morris in his book The Naked Ape in 1967 that people began to deal with it. The contributions by Elaine Morgan deserve special mention.

The Royal Society accepted Hardy as a full member in 1940. In 1943 he became a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh . Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1957 for his services to science. The headland Hardy Point of Bellingshausen Island in the archipelago of the South Sandwich Islands bears his name.

The water monkey hypothesis as an example of "organic evolution"

In contrast to the traditional theory that the forerunners of man should have started to inhabit the savannah (s), which forced them to stand on two legs more and more often for fear of predators because of a better overview, so that they after all, walking exclusively on two legs, Hardy sees the origin of the upright gait in a tribe of monkeys living on a (sea) shore, which first looked for food in shallow water and then used this habitat more and more intensively for fishing etc. Hardy was able to cite a number of indications for this theory: the subcutaneous tissue of humans is very similar to that of a dolphin (in contrast to the subcutaneous tissue of other great apes ), the thyroid gland of humans still requires iodine , the best source of iodine being fish and unlike all others not In mammals living in water, newborn human infants have an innate swimming reflex . The science journalist Elaine Morgan in particular campaigned for the recognition of the aquatic monkey hypothesis, which, by the way, exemplifies Hardy's thesis of "organic evolution", which ascribes an indirect control of evolution to living beings themselves by dealing with new environments.


  • Darwin and the spirit of man . - London: Collins, 1984. - ISBN 0-00-215160-X .
  • Great waters . - London: Collins, 1967.
  • Man, the praying animal : religiosity as a factor of evolution. - Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1979. - ISBN 3-12-903420-X .
  • Hardy, Sir Alister; The Living Stream; London 1965
  • The open sea : it's natural history. - London: Collins, 1958.
  • The spiritual nature of man : a study of contemporary religious experience. - Oxford: Clarendon Pr., 1979.


  • Elaine Morgan: Children of the Ocean : Man came from the sea. - Munich: Goldmann, 1988. - ISBN 3-442-11435-7 .
  • Desmond Morris: The Naked Monkey . - Munich: Droemer Knaur, 1980. - ISBN 3-426-03224-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. Sir Alister Clavering Hardy on the website; accessed on August 5, 2014.
  2. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed December 15, 2019 .
  3. Hardy's thesis has recently also been supported by Professor Carsten Niemitz (FU Berlin); in: Niemitz, Carsten; The secret of walking upright. Our evolution was different; Munich 2004.
  4. see: Hardy, Sir Allister; The Living Stream; London 1965.

Web links