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Paean to a leader in evolutionary theory.

Paean to a leader in evolutionary theory

Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University told his fellow paleontologists in Boulder that he has had only two great heroes in his life. "Joe DiMaggio is the first; I patterned my batting stance after him," Gould said. "George Gaylord Simpson is the second; I patterned my life after him."

Gould's remark was typical of the high praise heaped upon the late Simpson at the meeting. The scientists spent an afternoon assessing Simpson's work on theories of evolution rates and the impact Simpson has had on paleontology. Simpson, a former curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and author of 40 books (the most famous being Tempo and Mode of Evolution) and 760 papers, died nearly two years ago at the age of 82.

Before Simpson began his work in the mid-1930s, the great majority of paleontologists did not accept Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Simpson, who did believe in natural selection, spent much of his career applying evidence from the fossil record to the theory. Most notably, he developed theories about rates of evolution and why some species evolve faster than others. It is his legacy that today, the great majority of paleontologists believe in natural selection.

"Simpson made paleontology a partner in evolutionary theory," Gould says.
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Title Annotation:George Gaylord Simpson
Author:Murray, Mary
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 23, 1986
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