Stephen Jay Gould, Evolution Theorist, Dies at 60
Buncombe, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
STEPHEN JAY Gould, the outspoken evolutionary biologist whose views on Darwinism made him a bestselling if controversial author, died yesterday aged 60 at his home in New York. He had had cancer for more than 20 years.
Professor Gould, a Harvard University academic for 35 years, greatly influenced his field for many decades, delighting and dividing his colleagues with equal passion.
With Niles Eldredge, a fellow palaeontologist from the New York Museum of Natural History, he developed an evolutionary theory called "punctuated equilibrium", which postulates that long periods of evolutionary stability are broken by shorter spurts of evolutionary change, perhaps sparked by events such as climate change or a comet impact. The theory contrasts sharply with more traditional evolutionists, who believe evolution is a steady process.
His ability to write plainly on such difficult subjects that helped him to reach seamlessly from the world of academia to that of popular publishing. He wrote a series of witty and engaging best- selling essay collections, including "Ever Since Darwin", "The Panda's Thumb", and "The Mismeasure of Man," a study of intelligence testing.
Andrew Knoll, a colleague at Harvard University, said: "Most of us just appreciated that in Steve we had someone who put this very positive public face on palaeontology, who was able to reach an audience that most of us would never reach and not nearly so effectively. He really was palaeontology's public intellectual."
Professor Gould analysed evolutionary theory with comparisons to a range of disciplines, including popular culture and sports. But it was his belief in "punctuated equilibria" that set him at odds with traditional Darwinists, among them the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins. …