"Evolvability is the capacity of a system for adaptive evolution." (source) There are several other definitions though:

  • Who was the first person to use the word "evolvability"?

  • Who was the first to introduce the concept of evolvability? in which article?

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    $\begingroup$ More appropriate for ELU.se? I'm not convinced either way. $\endgroup$
    – Amory
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ You can probably trace he concept back to the dawn of mankind, it is such an obvious idea (not as it applies to life and evolution, just the idea of adaptive change). For example, you could even claim Heraclitus' Everything flows as an early example though adaptability is not implied. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


My literature searches have turned up dead ends, so this is less of a full answer and more of some groundwork, but Google ngrams suggests somewhere around 1931 for the first usage, with meaningful usages beginning in earnest int he early 70s. Their book previews from that era are sadly lacking; I can't find the usage of the ones from the 40s and 50s they do list sadly, but there are definitely some misnomers that show up in programming. There's a 1973 work and one from 1977 that at least appear to be the correct usage, with the one from 1973 using it as a "new" concept.

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    $\begingroup$ Oxford English Dictionary has this as first occurrence: 1931 J. A. Thomson in W. Rose Outl. Mod. Knowl. 231 "We have already mentioned evolvability as one of the nine characteristics of organisms." $\endgroup$
    – Alan Boyd
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 15:10

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