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Almighty Gould

Roy Porter, 23 April 1987

Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time 
by Stephen JayGould.
Harvard, 219 pp., £15.50, May 1987, 0 674 89198 8
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... seriously, and that is why it is especially pleasing that so distinguished a scientist as Stephen JayGould has chosen to take up the cudgels in the cause of demythologising the history of geological time. What makes his book so stimulating – apart from the fact that this volume is every bit as ...

Small Items with Big Implications

John Hedley Brooke, 1 December 1983

Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen JayGould.
Norton, 413 pp., £11.95, September 1983, 0 393 01716 8
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The Great Chain of History: William Buckland and the English School of Geology, 1814-1849 
by Nicolaas Rupke.
Oxford, 322 pp., £22.50, September 1983, 0 19 822907 0
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... In the concluding essay of an adventurous collection, Stephen JayGould observes that most ‘classic stories’ in science are wrong. There are good reasons why he is right. In their reconstruction of the past, practising scientists have been apt to celebrate the insight of those who anticipated their own ideas, tacitly dismissing those who were blind to where the future would lie ...

Sea-shells and Tigers

Philip Kitcher, 18 March 1999

Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... of some important thinkers, including Alan Turing and the biologists John Tyler Bonner and Stephen JayGould, Thompson’s ideas do not figure prominently in the biological curriculum or the mainstream of research. By contrast, that mainstream takes very seriously an unguarded remark of the youthful Francis ...


John Maynard Smith, 17 September 1981

The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen JayGould.
Norton, 343 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 393 01380 4
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... bears. The apparent ‘thumb’ is a modification and extension of a small bone in the wrist. For Stephen Gould, this is a particular and fascinating fact, but it is also an illustration of a general principle. The principle is that evolution proceeds by tinkering with what is already there, and not by following the canons of optimal design. Had the ...

Oh, the curse!

David Runciman: A home run, 19 February 2004

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball 
by Stephen JayGould.
Cape, 342 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 224 05042 7
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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game 
by Michael Lewis.
Norton, 288 pp., $24.95, June 2003, 0 393 05765 8
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... that the Red Sox lost game seven as well. Bill Buckner moved to Idaho. Oh, the curse! Yet, as Stephen JayGould points out in an essay in this posthumous collection of his baseball writings, it was not Buckner’s fault that the Red Sox lost the Series. When Buckner made his mistake, Boston had already blown their ...

When Gould meets Galton

A.W.F. Edwards, 30 December 1982

The Mismeasure of Man 
by Stephen JayGould.
Norton, 352 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 393 01489 4
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... species, we may suppose, since intercourse between the two has not so far proved fruitful. Stephen Gould’s contribution to this last debate is to open one or two coffins containing the scientific skeletons of the past with the purpose of nailing down the lids even more securely. From the point of view of the modern debate, they were better left ...

Pull the Other One

Ian Hacking, 26 January 1995

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life 
by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.
Free Press, 845 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 02 914673 9
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... denunciations. The New Republic of 31 October ran a piece by Murray followed by 18 criticisms. Stephen JayGould spoke out in the New Yorker of 28 November. I especially recommend Alan Ryan’s analysis in the New York Review of Books of 17 November, followed in the 1 December issue by Charles Lane’s examination ...

Lenin Shot at Finland Station

Slavoj Žižek: Counterfactuality and the conservative historian, 18 August 2005

What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from 12 Leading Historians 
edited by Andrew Roberts.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2005, 0 7538 1873 6
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... seem to be haunted by the randomness of life and possible alternative versions of reality: as Stephen JayGould put it, ‘wind back the film of life and play it again. The history of evolution will be totally different.’ This perception of our reality as only one of the possible outcomes of an ...

Seeing Things

Catherine Wilson: Egg and sperm and preformation, 21 May 1998

The Ovary of Eve: Egg and Sperm and Preformation 
by Clara Pinto-Correia.
Chicago, 396 pp., £23.95, November 1997, 0 226 66952 1
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... and a poet. She tells the story of how she came to write the book, with the help of the biologist Stephen JayGould, in her Introduction. Gould, for his part, does some contentious stage-setting in his Foreword, where, with the apparent aim of encouraging respect for the ...

Shock Lobsters

Richard Fortey: The Burgess Shale, 1 October 1998

The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals 
by Simon Conway Morris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £18.99, March 1998, 0 19 850256 7
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... Shale, and the insight its fossils provided into the early history of life, was made famous by Stephen JayGould in Wonderful Life (1989). Not that Gould himself first described any of these vanished animals: rather, he promulgated their importance to a world outside the hermetic ...

Why so cross?

Thomas Nagel: Natural selection, 1 April 1999

Unweaving the Rainbow 
by Richard Dawkins.
Penguin, 350 pp., £20, October 1998, 9780713992144
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The Pattern of Evolution 
by Niles Eldredge.
Freeman, 225 pp., £17.95, February 1999, 0 7167 3046 4
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... Dawkins on one side and Eldredge on the other. Eldredge is associated in this controversy with Stephen JayGould, his long-term research collaborator.* The disagreement, and the heat that it generates, are difficult for an outsider to understand, but they appear to have something to do with the way in which ...

Coloured Spots v. Iridescence

Steven Rose: Evolutionary Inevitability, 22 March 2018

Improbable Destinies: How Predictable Is Evolution? 
by Jonathan Losos.
Allen Lane, 364 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 241 20192 3
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... The issue​ of evolutionary inevitability was brought sharply into focus by the late Stephen JayGould in his book Wonderful Life (1989). Gould discussed the bizarre fossils uncovered by the Cambridge palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris in an outcrop of rock in the Canadian Rockies, known as the Burgess Shale ...

What do you mean by a lie?

Steven Shapin: Haeckel’s Embryos, 5 May 2016

Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud 
by Nick Hopwood.
Chicago, 388 pp., £31.50, May 2015, 978 0 226 04694 5
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... persuasion strikes even closer than words to the core of our being,’ the evolutionary biologist Stephen JayGould once said. Scientists use pictures more than most academics, but ‘somewhere along the way’, he cautioned, they have lost the sense that it’s wrong to identify pictures with the realities they ...

Chemical Common Sense

Miroslav Holub, 4 July 1996

The Same and Not the Same 
by Roald Hoffmann.
Columbia, 294 pp., $34.95, September 1995, 0 231 10138 4
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... broad public because of its ‘human’ dimension, as in the immense, neo-Darwinian undertaking of Stephen JayGould, the books of Lewis Wolpert, Peter Medawar’s essays, the psychiatric narratives of Oliver Sacks or the clinical deliberations of Sherwin Nuland; and finally the heroic attempts to describe a single ...

Dreadful Beasts

Mark Ridley, 28 June 1990

Wonderful Life 
by Stephen JayGould.
Hutchinson Radius, 347 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 09 174271 4
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... Columbia. Fossils had first been discovered there by a US geologist, Charles Walcott, in 1909 (as Gould convincingly shows, from Walcott’s diaries). In the next eight years, Walcott collected over eighty thousand specimens and deposited them in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. He never found the time to work on them as thoroughly as he wished, but ...

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