Stephen Jay Gould Biography
Stephen Jay Gould was born in 1941 and became one of
the best known and most popular writers on general science matters and his own
specialist field of evolutionary biology.
He had his own column in Natural History
magazine, for which he wrote 300 consecutive monthly pieces under the title
'This View of Life'. He also wrote 20 books, many of which were
bestsellers, and approximately 1,000 scientific papers.
He taught at Harvard University from 1967 up until his
death in 2002, at which time he was Professor of Geology and Curator of
Inverterbrate Paleontology, Museum of Comparative Zoology.
He is famous for the concept of 'punctuated
equilibrium' which he developed with paleontologist Niles Eldredge. They
theorized that the reason that evolutionary change appears to happen in bursts
of activity, followed by periods of little or no change, is due to dramatic environmental shifts.
Although some scientists disagree about the importance of punctuated
equilibrium as an evolutionary factor (the most vocal of whom is probably
Richard Dawkins), there appears to be general acceptance for the theory.
Gould is also known for popularizing the theory that the evolutionary process
has no pre-determined outcome. To quote Gould "humans
are not the end result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a
fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny little twig on the enormously arborescent
bush of life, which if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow this
Whilst scientists generally agree that humanity itself was not pre-ordained most argue that, in the absence of humans, another
intelligent species would probably have developed to fill the same
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This biography was last updated on 08/02/2010.
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