George Gaylord Simpson
Overview
 
George Gaylord Simpson was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 paleontologist. Simpson was perhaps the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, and a major participant in the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

, contributing Tempo and mode in evolution
Tempo and Mode in Evolution
Tempo and Mode in Evolution was George Gaylord Simpson's seminal contribution to the evolutionary synthesis, which integrated the facts of paleontology with those of genetics and natural selection....

(1944), The meaning of evolution (1949) and The major features of evolution (1953). He was an expert on extinct mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s and their intercontinental migrations. He anticipated such concepts as punctuated equilibrium
Punctuated equilibrium
Punctuated equilibrium is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis...

 (in Tempo and mode) and dispelled the myth that the evolution of the horse
Evolution of the horse
The evolution of the horse pertains to the phylogenetic ancestry of the modern horse from the small dog-sized, forest-dwelling Hyracotherium over geologic time scales...

 was a linear process culminating in the modern Equus caballus.
Encyclopedia
George Gaylord Simpson was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 paleontologist. Simpson was perhaps the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, and a major participant in the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

, contributing Tempo and mode in evolution
Tempo and Mode in Evolution
Tempo and Mode in Evolution was George Gaylord Simpson's seminal contribution to the evolutionary synthesis, which integrated the facts of paleontology with those of genetics and natural selection....

(1944), The meaning of evolution (1949) and The major features of evolution (1953). He was an expert on extinct mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s and their intercontinental migrations. He anticipated such concepts as punctuated equilibrium
Punctuated equilibrium
Punctuated equilibrium is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis...

 (in Tempo and mode) and dispelled the myth that the evolution of the horse
Evolution of the horse
The evolution of the horse pertains to the phylogenetic ancestry of the modern horse from the small dog-sized, forest-dwelling Hyracotherium over geologic time scales...

 was a linear process culminating in the modern Equus caballus. He coined the word hypodigm in 1940, and published extensively on the taxonomy
Taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 of fossil and extant mammals.

He was Professor of Zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, and Curator
Curator
A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution is a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material...

 of the Department of Geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

 from 1945 to 1959. He was Curator of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
Museum of Comparative Zoology
The Museum of Comparative Zoology, full name "The Louis Agassiz Museum of Comparative Zoology", often abbreviated simply to "MCZ", is a zoology museum located on the grounds of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is one of three museums which collectively comprise the Harvard Museum...

 at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 from 1959 to 1970, and a Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is a land-grant and space-grant public institution of higher education and research located in Tucson, Arizona, United States. The University of Arizona was the first university in the state of Arizona, founded in 1885...

 until his retirement in 1982.

Awards

In 1943 Simpson was awarded the Mary Clark Thompson Medal
Mary Clark Thompson Medal
The Mary Clark Thompson Medal is awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences "for most important service to geology and paleontology." Named after Mary Clark Thompson, it was first awarded in 1921.- List of Mary Clark Thompson Medal winners :...

 from the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

. For his work, Tempo and mode in evolution, he was awarded the Academy's Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal
Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal
The Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal is awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences "for meritorious work in zoology or paleontology published in a three- to five-year period." Named after Daniel Giraud Elliot, it was first awarded in 1917....

 in 1944. He was awarded the Linnean Society of London
Linnean Society of London
The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history. It publishes a zoological journal, as well as botanical and biological journals...

's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal
Darwin-Wallace Medal
The Darwin–Wallace Medal is a medal awarded by the Linnean Society of London for "major advances in evolutionary biology". Historically, the medals have been awarded every 50 years, beginning in 1908...

 in 1958. Simpson also received the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

's Darwin Medal
Darwin Medal
The Darwin Medal is awarded by the Royal Society every alternate year for "work of acknowledged distinction in the broad area of biology in which Charles Darwin worked, notably in evolution, population biology, organismal biology and biological diversity". First awarded in 1890, it was created in...

 'In recognition of his distinguished contributions to general evolutionary theory, based on a profound study of palaeontology, particularly of vertebrates,' in 1962.

At the University of Arizona
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is a land-grant and space-grant public institution of higher education and research located in Tucson, Arizona, United States. The University of Arizona was the first university in the state of Arizona, founded in 1885...

, Tucson
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States. The city is located 118 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The 2010 United States Census puts the city's population at 520,116 with a metropolitan area population at 1,020,200...

, the Gould-Simpson Building was named for George Gaylord Simpson. Simpson was noted for his work in the field of paleogeography and continental evolution relationships.

Debates with Joshua Lederberg

Joshua Lederberg
Joshua Lederberg
Joshua Lederberg ForMemRS was an American molecular biologist known for his work in microbial genetics, artificial intelligence, and the United States space program. He was just 33 years old when he won the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering that bacteria can mate and...

, 1958 Nobel laureate in Medicine or Physiology,
attracted Simpson's attention by working increasingly in the new
field of exobiology (as well as other areas). Simpson felt that
Joshua Lederberg and other scientists were not qualified to make
claims about life outside the Earth until hard evidence of such life
was found. "Simpson's oft-quoted description of exobiologists as
'ex-biologists' did more than exclude exobiologists from science; it
also implied that the physical and chemical techniques favored by
molecular biologists, biochemists, and biophysicists should not be
considered biological work (a point he made explicit elsewhere by
defining their interests as 'not biology, strictly speaking')."
Simpson had in mind not only Joshua Lederberg's work in "exobiology", but work in other areas such as Artificial Intelligence.

Simpson's view was that while Joshua Lederberg may have been highly
qualified in microbiology, Joshua Lederberg was not equally qualified
in all areas of biology. "For Simpson and Mayr, such programmes
presupposed the existence of trends in evolution, inexorably leading
to the formation of intelligent organisms, humanoids, similar to
human beings in their cognitive abilities. Such a conviction stemmed
from a blind belief in determinism, a misunderstanding of the
Darwinian theory of evolution, and an ignorance of evolutionary
facts: cephalization is not a major trend in evolution, and is far
less visible, for instance, than the repeated acquisition of eyes.
What is selected in organisms is not 'higher qualities', but
adaptation to a specific environment... " It is quite appropos that Simpson also focused upon cephalization, understood to be an emphasis on 'intelligence'. Apparently unknown to Simpson, the same error had occurred elsewhere; namely, Joshua Lederberg's views on eugenics and racism, which ignored points #2 and 6 of "The Geneticist's Manifesto" by H. J. Muller.

Views

In the 1960s, Simpson "rubbished the then-nascent science of exobiology, which concerned
itself with life on places other than Earth, as a science without a subject".

Quotes

  • "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

  • "I don't think that evolution is supremely important because it is my specialty; it is my specialty because I think it is supremely important."

  • "...exobiology [is] a curious development in view of the fact that this "science" has yet to demonstrate that its subject matter exists!"

Books

  • Attending marvels (1931)
  • Mammals and land bridges (1940)
  • Tempo and mode in evolution
    Tempo and Mode in Evolution
    Tempo and Mode in Evolution was George Gaylord Simpson's seminal contribution to the evolutionary synthesis, which integrated the facts of paleontology with those of genetics and natural selection....

     (1944)
  • The meaning of evolution (1949)
  • Horses (1951)
  • Evolution and geography (1953)
  • The major features of evolution (1953)
  • Life: an introduction to biology (1957)
  • Principles of animal taxonomy (1961)
  • This view of life (1964)
  • The geography of evolution (1965)
  • Penguins (1976)
  • Concession to the improbable (1978) (an autobiography)
  • Splendid isolation (1980)
  • The Dechronization of Sam Magruder (posthumously published novella, 1996)

External links


See also

  • Annie Montague Alexander
    Annie Montague Alexander
    Annie Montague Alexander was an American philanthropist and paleontological collector. She established the University of California Museum of Paleontology , Museum of Vertebrate Zoology , and financed their collections as well as a series of paleontological expeditions to the western United States...

    , who helped finance some of his early work
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