Gould, Stephen Jay
Palaeontologist and writer, born in New York City, New York, USA. Influenced by a visit at age five to the Museum of American History, he became interested in biology and evolution. He studied at Antioch College (1963 BA) and earned his PhD from Columbia University, doing his dissertation on the fossil land snails of Bermuda. He joined the Harvard faculty (1967) as a professor of geology, and spent his entire career there, becoming full professor (1973) as well as curator of invertebrate palaeontology at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. He was the world’s leading authority on the land snails of the West Indies, and was also known for espousing a modification of the traditional Darwinian theory of evolution, what he called ‘punctuated equilibria’, namely, that new species occasionally appear more quickly than the slow, steady, gradual process of Darwinian natural selection accounts for.
Although he wrote many articles and some books for his fellow specialists, including Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), he is best known for his regular column, ‘This View of Life’ (since 1974) in Natural History magazine, which are essays on aspects of biology that are understandable, and pleasurable, to a general public. These are periodically collected in such volumes as Ever Since Darwin (1977), The Panda’s Thumb (1980), and The Flamingo’s Smile (1985). He also wrote a book, The Mismeasure of Man (1981), attacking the kind of biological determinism that uses false science to categorize people by ‘intelligence’ testing. In 2002 he published The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, in which he attacks creationists for deliberately distorting his theories to undermine the teaching of Darwinism in schools. Known for his breadth of interests, from Bach to baseball, he also revealed in the late 1980s that he was suffering from a particularly virulent form of cancer.
(1977) Ever Since Darwin
(1980) The Panda’s Thumb
(1981) The Mismeasure of Man
(1985) The Flamingo’s Smile
(2002) The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
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