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Stephen Jay Gould - Biologist and Paleontologist

Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek

Stephen Jay Gould is remembered as one of the most influential and popular authors of modern popular science. He was a noted evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, biology teacher and science historian.

Born on September 10, 1941 in Bayside, New York, Gould was first introduced to the wonders of paleontology after his father took him on an outing to the American Museum of Natural History when he was only five years old. It was there, in the Hall of Dinosaurs, that Gould was overcome by the sight of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and made up his mind to become a paleontologist.

Gould earned his undergraduate degree from Antioch College and completed his graduate studies in paleontology at Columbia University in Manhattan. In his doctoral thesis, Gould studied the variation and evolution of Bermudian land snails in the genera Poecilozonites and Cerion.

Gould was very active in the American civil rights movement of the early 1960's, and throughout his career he wrote about and spoke out against any and all forms of cultural oppression.


The Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium
Stephen Jay Gould is perhaps best known for his theory of 'punctuated equilibrium,' first developed in 1972 with colleague Niles Eldredge. This theory put forth the proposal that most evolution is characterized by long periods of stability marked - or punctuated - by rare instances of branching evolution.

The theory of punctuated evolution was a significant departure from the then widely accepted theory that evoluationary change took place as a pattern of smooth and continuous change, also known as "gradualism." The theory was widely discussed and criticized by many. Some dissenting scientists took to jokingly referring to the theory as "evolution by jerks," to which Gould responded by referring to gradualism as "evolution by creeps."


Additional Work
Gould's contributions to the study of evolutionary developmental biology were quite significant. His best known scientific work is his 1977 Ontogeny and Phylogeny, and his influence in this field of study continues through the present.

He is also well-remembered for the essays he regularly wrote for Natural History magazine. In these articles, Gould wrote about science in such a way that even non-scientists were able to learn and understand some very complicated subject matter. He was also known for the way he wove his personal interests and pastimes into these pieces, making him one of the few scientists to build up a very personal rapport with his readers.

Gould died on May 20, 2002 from a metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lung which spread to his brain.


Additional Accomplishments
1982 - Named "Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology" by Harvard University
1983 - Awarded Fellowship into the American Association for the Advancement of Science
1985 - 1986 - Served as President of the Paleontological Society
1989 - Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
1990 - 1991 - Served as President for the Society for the Study of Evolution
1996 - 1992 - Awarded the "Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology" by New York University
1999 - 2001 - Served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
2001 - Named "Humanist of the Year" by the American Humanist Association.
2008 - Posthumously awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal, which is awarded every 50 years by the Linnean Society of London


Books and Other Works written or edited by Stephen Jay Gould:
1977. Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-63940-5
1977. Ever Since Darwin, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-06425-4
1980. The Panda's Thumb, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-01380-4
1981. The Mismeasure of Man, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-31425-0
1983. Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-01716-8
1985. The Flamingo's Smile, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-02228-5
1987. Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, ISBN 0-674-89198-8
1987. An Urchin in the Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas, N.Y.: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-02492-X
1989. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-02705-8
1991. Bully for Brontosaurus, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-02961-1 . 540 pp.
1992. Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-03054-9
1993. Eight Little Piggies, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-03416-X
1993. The Book of Life. Preface, pp. 621. New York: W. W. Norton (S. J. Gould general editor, 10 contributors). ISBN 0-393-05003-3 review citing original publishing date
1995. Dinosaur in a Haystack, New York: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-517-70393-9
1996. Full House: The Spread of Excellence From Plato to Darwin, New York: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-517-70394-7
1997. Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown, New York: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60541-0
1998. Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, N.Y.: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60141-5
1999. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, New York: Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-345-43009-3
2000. The Lying Stones of Marrakech, New York: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60142-3
2000. Crossing Over: Where Art and Science Meet, New York: Three Rivers Press, ISBN 0-609-80586-X
2002. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-00613-3
2002. I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History, New York: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60143-1
2003. Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-05755-0
2003. The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox, New York: Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60140-7


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Content copyright © 2014 by Deborah Watson-Novacek. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Deborah Watson-Novacek. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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