He is probably best known for his popularisation of the "selfish gene" theory (see "Williams Revolution"), described in his book The Selfish Gene. As an ethologist, with a principle interest in animal behaviour and its relation to natural selection, he popularised the idea that the gene is the principal unit of selection in evolution. This gene point of view also provides a basis for understanding kin selection which was originally suggested by J. B. S. Haldane and expanded by W. D. Hamilton.
Dawkins has been one of the major proponents of sociobiological theory and was the originator of the term meme which spawned the theory of memetics. In the controversy over the interpretation of the theory of evolution that is colloquially called The Darwin Wars, one party is often named for Dawkins and the rival party for Stephen Jay Gould. This reflects the pre-eminence of each as a populariser of the contesting view points, rather than because either is the more substantial or extreme champion of these positions. Dawkins acquiesced in this role from the time of his scathing review (published in January 1985) of Not in Our Genes by Rose, Kamin and Lewontin.
He married Marian Stamp on August 19, 1967, but they divorced in 1984. On June 1 the same year, Dawkins married Eve Barham, by whom he had two daughters, Emma and Juliet, but they, too, divorced. He married his third wife, former actor Lalla Ward, in 1992, after having been introduced to her by Douglas Adams (who was a colleague of hers on the production team of Dr Who; Dawkins and Adams had quickly become friends after he had written a fan letter to Adams).