When, in May of 2002, Stephen Jay Gould died at age sixty, a torrent of eulogy issued from the presses. Gould was a paleontologist and a writer of popular science. Some readers who were neither consumers of popular science nor adepts of left politics were puzzled. Yes, his death was untimely; and he was a public figure. But so are other professors who are regularly in the public prints. Gould was not a politician, not a film star, not, despite his well-advertised baseball know-how, a sports figure. Biologists don’t usually qualify for the industrial-strength obituary product. Somehow, this one, neither an Einstein nor a Ted Williams nor a lawmaker, did.

On the quality of Gould’s thought, opinion among his peers was divided, negative predominant. John Maynard Smith, a principal among leading evolutionists, said famously that “Because of the excellence of his essays, he [Gould] has come to be seen by non-biologists as the...

 

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