In 1964 he graduated from Cambridge (England) University and received his Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1967 he received a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge (England) University. Also in 1967 he graduated from London University and received a Doctor of Philosophy degree. In 1992 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Open University, Milton Keynes, England.
From 1969 to 1982 he worked as a Lecturer of biophysics at King's College London. He was a Reader at King's College London, 1982-1989. In 1989 he was appointed Professor of botany at the University of British Columbia. In 1999, he joined the University of Oxford and since 2000 to nowadays he is Professor of evolutionary biology in the Department of Zoology.
He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, 1980, the Institute of Biology, 1983, the Royal Society of Arts, 1987, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, 1988, the Royal Society of Canada, 1997, and the Royal Society of London, 1998.
He was married to Gillian Glaysher on April 1964 (divorced ). They have 2 children. He is married to Ema E-Yung Chao on November 11, 1991. They have a child.