Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) was an American geologist, biologist and historian of science. He taught at Harvard, where he was named Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, and at NYU. His last book was Punctuated Equilibrium.


The Man Who Set the Clock Back

The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

by Simon Winchester
Large committees of the world’s finest zoologists have collaborated to write the great compendia of life’s taxonomic order, phylum by phylum in volume upon volume—as in the Cambridge Natural History of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, or the French Traité de Zoologie of the mid-twentieth century. The American …

The Man Who Invented Natural History


by Jacques Roger, translated by Sarah Lucille Bonnefoi
An average nobleman in eighteenth-century France, including his wig, did not match the modern American mean. Nonetheless, at a shade under five five, Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, struck his own countrymen as short of stature. Yet he bestrode his world like a colossus. When he died, in 1788 at …

Evolution: The Pleasures of Pluralism

Charles Darwin began the last paragraph of The Origin of Species (1859) with a famous metaphor about life’s diversity and ecological complexity: It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with …

Darwinian Fundamentalism

With copious evidence ranging from Plato’s haughtiness to Beethoven’s tirades, we may conclude that the most brilliant people of history tend to be a prickly lot. But Charles Darwin must have been the most genial of geniuses. He was kind to a fault, even to the undeserving, and he never …

Why Darwin?

Charles Darwin: Voyaging

by Janet Browne
Most young men of the time could only fantasize, but Charles Darwin experienced the overt drama of his century’s archetypal episode in the personal story we now call “coming of age”: a five-year voyage of pure adventure (and much science) circumnavigating the globe on H.M.S. Beagle. Returning to England at …