Segments in this Video

Evolution of Diversity of Life on Earth (03:20)


Professor Allan Wilson of the University of California, Berkeley, gave science new ways to understand how the diversity of life on earth evolved.

Early Years of Allan Wilson (03:35)

Born and raised on a New Zealand farm, young Allan Wilson showed an intelligent interest in evolution. He attended Kings College and performed well scholastically and athletically. Biology teachers did not broach the subject of evolution.

Allan Wilson's Education in New Zealand and America (03:54)

Wilson studied biochemistry at the university level, planning to combine farming and scientific techniques. He pursued his interest in studying birds. Wilson comes to the U.S. to study biochemistry, and completes his doctoral work at Berkeley.

Theory of Evolution: Molecular Clock (02:50)

On the faculty at the UC Berkeley campus, Wilson continues to quantitatively study the evolution of birds. He discovered that the relationship between time and genetic change cast a new light on evolution.

Study of Paleoanthropology (04:32)

Studying human evolution and chimp evolution, Allan Wilson argues that earlier theories that homo sapiens evolved from Ramipithecus was in error. At issue scientifically was how scientists should measure the relationships between close prehistoric relatives.

Similarities Between Humans and Chimpanzees (02:38)

If the molecules of humans and chimps are so similar, why do the two species look so different? Allan Wilson and a colleague attempted to answer this is a paper that was featured in "Science" in 1975.

Scientific Value of Mitochondrial DNA: Search for Eve (05:21)

Mitochondrial DNA allows scientists to look at genealogy in a direct line through the females. The study of 150 samples from all over the world suggested a common female ancestor in Africa that lived 150,000 years ago.

Revolutionary Ideas About Human Evolution (01:35)

As scientific studies of the evolution of man get closer to the social sciences, the more difficult it is to change long-held beliefs. Many people reject the idea that biochemistry could reveal so many secrets of human evolution.

DNA Sequence Multiplication (03:35)

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) enables researchers to produce millions of copies of a specific DNA sequence in approximately two hours. This automated process bypasses the need to use bacteria for amplifying DNA.

Study of Ancient DNA (04:33)

The PCR method allows scientists to study ancient DNA. Allan Wilson studies the evolution of the extinct Moa bird. This method tells how environmental changes contributed to evolutionary changes in the absence of humans.

Legacy of Allan Wilson: Gene Studies (03:18)

Allan Wilson receives many honors for his work in evolutionary DNA. One of his students, now of Celera Diagnostics, studies the links between the genes humans carry and the diseases humans get.

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Allan Wilson: Evolutionary

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Allan Wilson, a groundbreaking researcher and a lightning rod for controversy, revolutionized science and galvanized the scientific community through his quantitative biochemical approach to the history of evolution. Drawing upon the insights and recollections of those who knew Wilson best, this program—narrated by paleoanthropologist Tim White, codiscoverer of the hominid “Lucy”—correlates milestones of his remarkable career with his enduring contributions that range from molecular phylogenies of multiple species to an understanding of mechanisms underlying the mode and tempo of organismal evolution. Commentary by David Wake, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and many others is featured. (41 minutes)

Length: 42 minutes

Item#: BVL39548

ISBN: 978-1-60467-333-3

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“This inspiring film is a must-see.... Highly recommended.” —Educational Media Reviews Online

“This brilliant film does quite a marvelous job of illustrating how the man and his ideas evolved and how they reshaped biology and anthropology.... students of physical anthropology would be well-served to watch this film. The benefits will be many: seeing a man who was passionate about science and knowledge from childhood, who brought together two disconnected disciplines when others either never thought to or actually opposed the idea, who blazed a trail through multiple sciences and offered solutions to multiple problems, and who faced all the skepticism of offering a radical new view which would eventually become the standard view.” —Anthropology Review Database

“Some of the most remarkable science discoveries of the last 40 years are highlighted and explained in this DVD about the understandings brought on by research in biochemistry and zoology by New Zealander Allan Wilson. This DVD should be viewed by students of human evolution at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.” —Science Books & Films  

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