Steven Jay Gould Essays

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The theory argues that evolutionary history is a pattern of rapid shifts followed by stasis rather than a slow and steady process of change.

His association with the Museum continued with his regular contributions to Gould began teaching at Harvard University in 1967 where he spent his entire career.

This was a man determined to live out his life as an evolutionary biologist to its bitterly premature close.

I wish he were still around, for it would be nice to know how his career would have developed.

I suppose that, with the exception of his monographs on snails, I’ve read everything the man ever wrote: all of his books, his scientific papers, and even his last behemoth of a book, . Like many, I found him voluble, opinionated, and often arrogant—but never boring.

(That I found interesting for two reasons: he admitted that there was no convincing evidence for one of his big ideas, species selection, and there was a fascinating discussion of Darwin’s “principle of divergence”—Darwin’s idea on how species arise—which Gould felt was one of Darwin’s most important contributions.) I knew Steve fairly well, for he was on my Ph. I crossed swords with him often about his theory of punctuated equilibrium, which, I thought, called needed attention to the patterns of stasis in the fossil record, but was completely wrongheaded as a theory of , depending as it did on assumptions about population genetics which were already known to be wrong.

And the way he dealt with his illness was nothing less than heroic, reminding me of Christopher Hitchens.

At the age of 41, shortly after I left Harvard, Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, which is almost invariably fatal.

Steve starts getting creative at midnight, works until 2 or 3, then gets up at .” For relaxation from his disciplined, organized professional life, he lets himself go by singing baritone in the Boston Cecilia Society, a highly regarded amateur chorus.

What time is left is jealously guarded for his family.


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