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Stephen Jay Gould biography

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Stephen Jay Gould

How to pronounce Stephen Jay Gould: goold

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 twig again."


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 evolutionary niche.

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This biography was last updated on 08/02/2010.

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The Richness of Life jacket The Lying Stones of Marrakech jacket
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    If you enjoyed:
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  • Jack Repcheck

    Jack Repcheck

    Jack Repcheck is an editor at W. W. Norton & Co., where he publishes the work of leading scientists and economists. His previous book was the critically acclaimed The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the ... (more)

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