Spanish biologist, specialist in evolution, born in Madrid on March 12, 1934 and later naturalized American.
After graduating at the University of Madrid, he/she studied at the University of Salamanca and in 1961 moved to the United States, where he/she worked in evolutionary genetics with Theodosius Dobzhansky , and earned a doctorate in 1964. From that year he/she remained at Rockefeller University, in New York, first as a researcher and, finally, as an Assistant Professor. His work in New York focused on the study of the rate of evolution of species, in which experimentally showed this index direct relationship with the genetic variation of the affected populations. It was also the Decade of 1960 when he/she met his future wife Mary Henderson, that he/she married in 1968 and has two children. A U.S. citizen was nationalized in 1971.
That same year 1971 he/she joined the teaching staff of the University of California, which has taught genetics and evolution until 1978, year in which he/she became Professor of biological sciences at the University of California at Irvine. Next to a remarkable task research and teaching in their area of specialization, Ayala has made successful forays in other life areas such as ecology, environmental studies, evolution of parasitic organisms, biological thinking, etc. Thus, from the end of 1960 his work was focused on three main aspects: the process of geographic speciation or divergence of the species; genetic variation in several populations result of an adaptive process to different environmental factors, such as diet, population density, temperature, etc., that affect the selection of genetic variants; and the process of molecular evolution, whose cloning of DNA studies have posed new challenges to models of evolutionary change. In the 1980s his research with various protozoa that cause diseases have had a big impact on medicine. Ayala discovered that many of the parasitic protozoa reproduce by cloning instead of by sexual reproduction, discovery of vital importance for the manufacture of vaccines against these organisms.
For his work in genetics and evolution, Ayala has been awarded numerous awards: the Medal of the College of France (1979); the key we award of the American Association of genetic (1985); Award to the responsibility of the American Association for the advancement of Science (1987); Award for distinction Rioja and Medal of the University of California at Irvine; Prize of the President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (all in 1995); Award scientific distinguished of SACNAS (1998); William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement of Sigma XI and gold medal of the National Academy of Sciences of Italy (both in 2000); U.S. National Medal of Science, United States (2001); Prize Mario Bohoslavsky of the ARP-r & d; Gold Medal, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Italy (both in 2003); Award for scientific distinction, American Institute of biological sciences, the Presidential Medal, Mount St. Mary's University ' s, Maryland, USA, and international prize for science and research, Foundation Cristóbal Gabarrón, Spain (all three in 2007); Premio COSCE by popular science, Confederation of Spain (2009) scientific societies; Capio Prize Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Madrid; Prize Trotter in information, complexity and inference, Texas A & M University, USA; and Templeton Prize (all of them in 2010), among others.
A conception of synthetic and encyclopedic biology (and science in general) has led him to take an active part in scientific associations and scientific in United States policy: President of the society for the study of evolution (1980), President of the American Association for the advancement of science and is part of the Advisory Council on Science and technology of the American Presidency (1994-1997), President Sigma XI, The Scientific Research Society (2003-2006), etc.; Moreover, foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Academy of natural sciences in Moscow, the Royal Academy of the Sciences of Spain, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, l Galician Academy of pharmacy of Galicia and L Academy Malagueña of Sciences; and member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American philosophical society.
Holder of numerous doctorates honoris causa of the universities of Athens (Greece); Bologna and Padua (Italy); Barcelona, Islas Baleares, León, Madrid, Valencia, Vigo, Salamanca, Basque country (Spain); Buenos Aires and La Plata (Argentina); University of Chile; Masaryk and South Bohemia (Czech Republic); Ohio State University (USA); Warsaw (Poland); Vladivostok (Russia), Ayala is also a spokesperson for the frequency in the debate between evolution and creationism, and has published widely on the humanistic aspects of science.
From its relevant position in the American scientific system Ayala has developed also active campaigns to promote scientific communication with Spain and Latin American countries.