December 21, 2009

Stephen C. Stearns, Ph.D.
Edward P. Bass Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Box 208106
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520-8106 USA
phone: (203) 432 8452
Dear Dr. Stearns:

I like your picture on your web site.  It has been many years since I was in New England, but those are definitely New England eyes.  Lie to me if you have to, but you are good Old New England.

I just looked at a new article that said you had found a correlation between fertility and such things as body build.  Fertility depends in very great measure on the kinship of the parents and their parents.  Here is a graph from an article from Iceland. 

The man’s name is Helgason.  Sorry for the typo.  The vertical axis is the number of children.  The horizontal axis is the kinship: second cousin or closer, third cousin or closer and so forth.  There is more evidence and an indication of how important this is on the enclosed DVD.  Let me know if you have trouble playing it.  I would suggest an ordinary DVD player rather than a computer. 

A glance at the error bars suggests that the effect is very strong.  Between fifth and sixth cousins or closer there is no overlap at the 95% confidence limits. 

My best references come from Iceland, Denmark and England.  Although they were printed in SCIENCE, I know of nobody in this country who has taken an interest.  This proves to be a non-trivial issue.  I almost managed to coax somebody in the Genetics Society of America to have a panel on this next year.  He asked whether I could name any experts.  When I said they were not in this country he threw up his hands and said it would be impossible; there was no money.  Back when I was starting on this project, I could have afforded to fly them in, but no longer. 

It would be really great if you could recover genealogical data from the Framingham study so you could control for kinship in your data.  The prestige of the Framingham study is well known.  I think a study from you showing the same thing in your population would bring proper attention to what is going on with fertility, which as the DVD will point out, is a major world health issue. 

I have been trying to get something done myself, but I am far out of my depth.  As they say it is Bambi vs. Godzilla, and Bambi still has white spots on his back.  I have managed to write a computer program, also on an enclosed CD which models the data they found in Iceland.  But there the matter rests.  I have been putting data as it accumulates on along with correspondence.  But I have been unable to get anybody to help me get it into the literature or even to steal my work.  (What is the world coming to?) 

Please let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD 
(Dr,. Sears replied that he would not be able to recover the genealogy data from what he had.)
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