Luigi Cavalli-Sforza was a bacterial and population geneticist who made important contributions to our understanding of the genetics of the rod-shaped bacterium Escherichia coli and bacterial drug resistance. He went on to study the origin and migration of human populations and is the founder of the field of genetic geography.
Studying many populations, Luigi constructed a global genetic landscape, revealing that human history was driven by mass migrations triggered by population booms. He showed that agricultural methods in early humans spread through slow migration, and that the geographic isolation of the Basques led to their uniqueness as a genetic and culturally distinct population, most likely descended from early European hunter–gatherers.
In tracking human migration around the globe, Luigi’s work spanned genetics, statistics, linguistics demography, mathematics and cultural evolution. He wrote several books, including The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), described as ‘a history of everything about everybody’. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Luca Cavalli-Sforza ForMemRS died on 31 August 2018.