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Biographic Information

Stephen Jay Gould (September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation, which led many authors to call him "America's unofficial evolutionist laureate." He spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History.

Early in his career he developed with Niles Eldredge the theory of punctuated equilibrium, where evolutionary change occurs relatively rapidly to comparatively longer periods of evolutionary stability. According to Gould, punctuated equilibrium revised a key pillar of neo-Darwinism. Some evolutionary biologists have argued that the theory was an important insight, but merely modified neo-Darwinism in a manner which was fully compatible with what had been known before.

Gould as a public figure

Gould became widely known through his popular science essays in Natural History magazine and his best-selling books on evolution. Many of his essays were reprinted in collected volumes, such as Ever Since Darwin and The Panda's Thumb, while his popular treatises included books such as The Mismeasure of Man, Wonderful Life and Full House.

Gould was a passionate advocate of evolutionary theory and wrote prolifically on the subject, trying to communicate his understanding of contemporary evolutionary theories to a wide audience. A recurring theme in his writings is the history and development of evolutionary, and pre-evolutionary, thought. He was also an enthusiastic baseball fan and made frequent references to the sport in his essays.

Although a proud Darwinist, his emphasis was less gradualist and reductionist than most neo-Darwinists. He also opposed many aspects of sociobiology and its intellectual descendant evolutionary psychology. He spent much of his time fighting against creationism (and the related constructs Creation Science and Intelligent Design) and other forms of pseudoscience. Most notably, Gould provided expert testimony against the equal-time creationism law in McLean v. Arkansas. Gould used the term "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA) to describe how, in his view, science and religion could not comment on each other's realm.