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Gould, Stephen Jay (1941-2002)

Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard’s outspoken and often controversial paleontologist whose groundbreaking work on evolutionary theory—coupled with his award-winning writings—brought an expanded world of science to thousands of readers.

Gould, along with Niles Eldredge, a paleontologist at New York’s Museum of Natural History, developed an evolutionary theory called “punctuated equilibrium,” where long periods of evolutionary stability are broken up by shorter spurts of evolutionary change, perhaps sparked by external events such as climate change or the impact of a comet. The theory contrasts with more traditional evolutionists, who believe evolution is a slow, steady process occurring at a nearly constant rate.

Gould, the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, spent his professional career at Harvard. He wrote widely on topics ranging from baseball to the Piltdown Man hoax to the Sept. 11 tragedy.

Jeremy R. Knowles, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said, “Steve Gould was a star in Harvard’s firmament. He was an intellectual and a scholar who inspired our students in lectures, and who wrote with a wonderfully engaging lucidity for the wider public.”

—Courtesy of the Harvard University Gazette