Stephen Jay Gould

American biologist and historian of science (1941–2002)

Stephen Jay Gould (September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, taxonomist, and historian of science.

Stephen Jay Gould
BornSeptember 10, 1941
DiedMay 20, 2002(2002-05-20) (aged 60)
Manhattan, New York City
Alma materAntioch College, Columbia University
Known forPunctuated equilibrium
AwardsLinnean Society of London's Darwin-Wallace Medal (2008)
Paleontological Society Medal (2002)
Scientific career
FieldsPaleontology, Evolutionary biology, History of Science
InstitutionsHarvard University,
American Museum of Natural History,
New York University

He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation.[1]

Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the latter years of his life, Gould also taught biology and evolution at New York University near his home in SoHo.

Gould's greatest contribution to science was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972.[2] The theory proposes that most evolution is marked by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is punctuated by rare instances of branching evolution. The theory was contrasted against the idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record.

Most of Gould's empirical research was based on the snail genera Poecilozonites and Cerion. He also contributed to evolutionary developmental biology, and has received wide praise for his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny. In evolutionary theory he opposed strict selectionism, sociobiology as applied to humans, and evolutionary psychology. He campaigned against creationism.

Many of Gould's Natural History essays were reprinted in collected volumes.


  1. Shermer, Michael (2002), "This View of Science" (PDF), Social Studies of Science, 32 (4): 489–525, archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-09-20, retrieved 2011-06-06.
  2. Eldredge, Niles, and S. J. Gould (1972). "Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism." In T.J.M. Schopf, ed., Models in Paleobiology. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper and Company, pp. 82-115.