Stephen Jay Gould

(1941—2002) American palaeontologist

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US scientist whose evolutionary theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ challenges conventional Darwinian theory.

Gould took his doctorate at Columbia (1967), subsequently joining the Harvard faculty, where he has remained ever since. His specialist expertise lies in the fields of palaeontology, geology, evolutionary biology, and the history of science. However, he has become known to nonspecialist audiences both through his popular works on natural history and the role of science in society and through broader intellectual debates resulting from his academic work.

While conventional Darwinian theory argues that evolution was a gradual process, occurring over immense periods of time, Gould has used fossil evidence to propose that it has proceeded by fits and starts, with long static periods interrupted by bursts of change, a process he calls ‘punctuated equilibrium’. Gould's book Wonderful Life (1989) documents the 1909 discovery of the Burgess Shale fossils, their misinterpretation, and their reclassification in the 1970s. His other books include The Panda's Thumb (1980), The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983), Finders Keepers (1992), and Dinosaur in a Haystack (1996).

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.

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