Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History

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Overview

More than any other modern scientists, Stephen Jay Gould has opened up to millions the wonders of evolutionary biology. His genius as an essayist lies in his unmatched ability to use his knowledge of the world, including popular culture, to illuminate the realm of science.
Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.

Reissued in a larger format, this popular anthology offers an introduction to the wonders and depths of evolutionary biology. "A remarkable achievement by any measure . . . One is hard pressed to single out past writers who could wear the sobriquet of natural history essayist with such distinction."--Chicago Tribune. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

The Sciences
A shrewd and learned intellectual whose essays on Charles Darwin have the styleand address of what in other circumstances might be the writing of a literary critic upon Stendhal or Proust or other such major figure in the world of letters.— P. B. Medawar
Chicago Tribune
A remarkable achievement by any measure. [Gould] is profoundly intelligent, a writer of great natural wit, and his sophistication and learning range far beyond the parameters of his academic field, biology. . . . One is hard pressed to single out past writers who could wear the sobriquet of natural history essayist with such distinction.— David Walsten
P. B. Medawar - The Sciences
“A shrewd and learned intellectual whose essays on Charles Darwin have the styleand address of what in other circumstances might be the writing of a literary critic upon Stendhal or Proust or other such major figure in the world of letters.”
David Walsten - Chicago Tribune
“A remarkable achievement by any measure. [Gould] is profoundly intelligent, a writer of great natural wit, and his sophistication and learning range far beyond the parameters of his academic field, biology. . . . One is hard pressed to single out past writers who could wear the sobriquet of natural history essayist with such distinction.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393308181
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/1992
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 435,437
  • Lexile: 1250L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Jay Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Biography

Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was arguably the leading science writer for the contemporary literate popular audience. His explications of evolutionary theory and the history of science are peppered with oddball cultural and historical references, from Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak to Catherine the Great's middle name. But Gould insisted that his work wasn't dumbed-down for nonscientists.

"I sort of operate at one end of what's called popular science," he told a Salon interviewer. "Not because I don't appreciate the other end, I just wouldn't do it well, somehow. But the end I operate on really doesn't sacrifice any complexity -- except complexity of language, of course, complexity of jargon. But I like to think that my stuff is as conceptually complex as I would know how to write it for professional audiences."

In 1972, Gould and fellow paleontologist Niles Eldredge shook up the field of evolutionary theory with their idea of "punctuated equilibrium," which suggests that the evolution of a species is not gradual and continual, but marked by long periods of stasis and brief bursts of change. Over the next several decades, Gould would continue to develop his critique of evolutionary theory, questioning assumptions about evolutionary progress and provoking debates with the likes of evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, philosopher Daniel Dennett and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

From early on in his career, Gould was interested in reviving the scientific essay, in the tradition of Galileo and Darwin. Gould began writing a series of monthly essays for Natural History, the magazine of the American Museum of Natural History. Published as "This View of Life," the well-received essays addressed a broad range of topics in the biological and geological sciences. In his essays, Gould not only explained scientific facts for the lay reader, he critiqued the shortcomings of certain scientific viewpoints and the cultural biases of particular scientists.

Armed with a historical view of evolutionary theory, he tackled the problem of human intelligence testing in The Mismeasure of Man (1981). The book won a National Book Critics' Circle Award, while a collection of essays, The Panda's Thumb (1980), won the American Book Award. Together the books established Gould's presence as one of the country's most prominent science writers.

Gould's popularity continued to widen with the publication of such unlikely bestsellers as Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989), which challenged the notion that humans are the necessary endpoint of evolutionary history. "Not only does [Gould] always find something worth saying, he finds some of the most original ways of saying it," The New York Times said in its review of Bully for Brontosaurus (1993), another collection of essays.

In 1998, Gould was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his description of that office could apply to his whole life's work. He pledged to "make people less scared of science so they won't see it as arcane, monolithic, and distant, but as something that is important to their lives." Stephen Jay Gould died in May of 2002 of cancer.

Good To Know

In a Mother Jones interview, Gould mentioned that he was teased as a child for his fascination with paleontology. The other kids called him "fossil face." Gould added, "The only time I ever got beat up was when I admitted to being a Yankee fan in Brooklyn. That was kind of dumb."

Gould was diagnosed in 1982 with abdominal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. In one of his most famous essays, "The Median Isn't the Message," he explained how statistics are often misinterpreted by nonscientists, and why the grim statistics on his own disease -- with a median mortality of eight months, at that time -- didn't deter him from believing he would live for many more years. "[D]eath is the ultimate enemy -- and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light," he wrote. He died in May 2002 -- 20 years after his diagnosis.

Gould made a guest appearance as himself on The Simpsons in 1997, participating in a town debate over the authenticity of an "angel skeleton" found in Springfield.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Jay Gould
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 10, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      May 20, 2002
    2. Place of Death:
      Boston, Massachusetts

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2003

    Keep up the good work Gould

    Stephen Jay Gould grew up in New York City. He graduated from Antioch College and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1967. Since then he has been Professor of Geology and Zoology at Harvard University. He considers himself primarily a paleontologist and an evolutionary biologist, though he teaches geology and history of science as well. This was the first book in a collection of 33 written for the 'Natural History Magazine'. He wrote this book because Darwinism is something he deeply appreciates and is more complex than the public generally know. He wanted to make clear to the public the truth about Darwinism. S. J. Gould is a good fan of Darwin's work. He finds Darwin's work very interesting and motivational. After extensively researching Darwin's theory of evolution Gould became shocked to learn of the many authors who had dismissed Darwin's theory after not reviewing all of his material. Gould, being a palaeontologist and a very enthusiastic biologist, took this as a challenge and used it as a means of taking his first steps to being a novelist with this wonderful book. His aim was to correct all the wrongly informed people with a vast array of facts and essay extracts he came across in his research. Gould has taken great care in writing this book, instead of sticking to the one subject he truly wants to get across he realises that this would become quite a drag for the average reader and they might loose interest. Because of this he has carefully placed additional information such as history of Darwin for example, why he started his great works off using the term 'decent with modification' instead of 'evolution', why he waited 21 years before even thinking about publishing his book, and how his ideas around this theory all began. He also included neighbouring theories and reasons why Darwin kept the inside lane with all the competition, and most interesting of all is the background information he has included. Everything he has written inspires deep thought about the subject and creates a new sense of intrigue over his work, for example, one of my favourite: 'If you had not heard of them, could you believe the blueprints of a giraffe, or the mechanisms of an ant?' He shows how evolution is not always good and on that note, the terrible fate of the Irish Elk, but denotes how evolution is almost always a good thing as it is an adaptation to the surrounding environment. He keeps referring back to Darwin's old essays and notes to give solid facts and proof which supports these points brought about by Darwin's theory of evolution. One can argue that no scientific theory has caused more controversies than Darwin's theory. Not to mention the history of the conflicts between religious beliefs and the evolutionary theory, many people today still have trouble accepting it, no matter how all the evidences appear to favor the theory. Gould's book has the strongest evidence available for this theory and by all rights it is now completely justified. This book is an outstanding example of Stephan Gould's work and I expect to see it sell many copies in the future. If it were not for the often occuring over-complex text in this book, i would see it as a 5-star piece of literature.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2002

    Wonderful

    Steven Jay Gould is wonderful at presenting evolutionary ideas in a way that is understandable to all. This is a great book that I recommend everyone to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2001

    An oasis for those in the desert of textbook education

    This book was a refreshing break for a high school student that has burned out on textbook education. Although the concepts presented were not 'earth-shattering', so to speak, they were stimulating and well-argued, and, most importantly, restored my faith in evolutionary biology (thank you, Mrs. Funk). The essay-collection format of the book also kept me interested throughout, as it didn't exhaust one topic and didn't seem rushed. Most of all, this book was fun! It was intelligent, not too overbearing, and had a human touch not often quite as evident in other books of the genre. Any non-fiction book that can keep my attention for an hour while I'm on the stationary bike is definately worth reading, and has hooked me on Gould's writing (I am now avidly reading Wonderful Life). Read this book, for your own sake if not for the good of the world in general!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2010

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