Evolution is the central organizing principle of biology – “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (Theodosius Dobzhansky) . It is this central role that makes the principle of evolution so versatile in the life sciences and beyond: in all scientific disciplines, technology, medicine, linguistics and psychology. The Institute of Evolution is the flagship of Hungarian theoretical evolutionary biology.
The internationally recognized scientific school led by Eörs Szathmáry was initiated about thirty years ago; its core had been the Theoretical Evolutionary Biology Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Eötvös University. The international connections of the school had been strengthened and widened during its years of fruitful cooperation with Collegium Budapest (Institute of Advanced Study).
The main focus of research during the first decade of the school was on the major evolutionary transitions with special emphasis on the origin and early evolution of life. Along with the steady increase in the size of the scientific staff the scope of theoretical research had also increased in breadth and depth: added to the original topics that have been successfully cultivated ever since, the millennial years have seen expansion to new, exciting fields like the evolution of communication and language, the evolutionary roots of cooperation from the molecular level up to human societies, the potential mechanisms of chemical evolution leading to the wake of life and the astrobiological corollaries thereof. During the last few years, the research portfolio of the Institute has broadened even further: basic research has been initiated on the potential role of evolutionary dynamics in human cognition (Darwinian neurodynamics) and the evolutionary background of certain diseases (Darwinian medicine). In close relation to the topic of the coevolution of cooperation and communication an evolutionary robotics lab is being set up: a pioneering scientific infrastructural achievement in Hungary. Intensive research is being conducted in order to forecast and control new diseases that are expected (and partly already seen) to emerge due to climate change.
This new institute of the Centre for Ecological Research has a dense web of international connections, a strong potential to attract resources through international and domestic grant applications, and it has a long tradition of teaching courses from undergraduate to postgraduate levels. The main goals of the Institute are conducting top level theoretical research on basic scientific topics and also contributing to potential applications of immediate utility for society.