George Gaylord Simpson

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George Gaylord Simpson
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|image = George Gaylord Simpson.jpg|caption = Simpson in 1965190216|mf=yes}}|birth_place = Chicago, Illinois198466mf=yes}}|death_place = Fresno, California|residence = |citizenship = |nationality = United States|ethnicity = |field = Paleontology|work_institutions = Columbia UniversityUniversity of Colorado|Yale University, B.A., Ph.D.}}|doctoral_advisor = Richard Swann Lull|doctoral_students = Modern synthesis (20th century)>Modern synthesis; quantum evolution|author_abbrev_bot = |author_abbrev_zoo = |influences = |influenced = Mary Clark Thompson Medal (1943)Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal (1944)>Hayden Memorial Geological Award (1950)Penrose Medal (1952)>Darwin-Wallace Medal (1958)Darwin Medal (1962)>Linnean Medal (1962)National Medal of Science (1965)>Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal (1965)Paleontological Society Medal (1973)>Foreign Member of the Royal SocietyWHITTINGTON > FIRST1 = H. B. TITLE = GEORGE GAYLORD SIMPSON. 16 JUNE 1902-6 OCTOBER 1984 BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS OF FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY > VOLUME = 32 YEAR = 1986 JSTOR = 770122, }}|religion = |footnotes = |signature =}}George Gaylord Simpson (June 16, 1902 – October 6, 1984) was a US paleontologist. Simpson was perhaps the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, and a major participant in the modern synthesis, contributing Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944), The Meaning of Evolution (1949) and The Major Features of Evolution (1953). He was an expert on extinct mammals and their intercontinental migrations.Simpson G.G. 1940. Mammals and land bridges. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 30: 137{{ndash}}163. See Charles H. Smith's website for full text: weblink He anticipated such concepts as punctuated equilibrium (in Tempo and mode) and dispelled the myth that the evolution of the horse was a linear process culminating in the modern Equus caballus. He coined the word (wikt:hypodigm|hypodigm) in 1940, and published extensively on the taxonomy of fossil and extant mammals.JOURNAL, Simpson, G. G., George Gaylord Simpson, Types in modern taxonomy, 10.2475/ajs.238.6.413, American Journal of Science, 238, 6, 413–426, 1940, 1940AmJS..238..413S, p. 418. Simpson was influentially, and incorrectly, opposed to Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift.Simpson G.G. 1953. Evolution and geography: an essay on historical biogeography with special reference to mammals. Oregon State System of Higher Education: Eugene, Oregon.He was Professor of Zoology at Columbia University, and Curator of the Department of Geology and Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1945 to 1959. He was Curator of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University from 1959 to 1970, and a Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona until his retirement in 1982.


In 1943 Simpson was awarded the Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.WEB, Mary Clark Thompson Medal,weblink National Academy of Sciences, February 15, 2011, yes,weblink" title="">weblink December 29, 2010, For his work, Tempo and mode in evolution, he was awarded the Academy's Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal in 1944.WEB, Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal,weblink National Academy of Sciences, February 15, 2011, yes,weblink" title="">weblink August 1, 2012, He was awarded the Linnean Society of London's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal in 1958. Simpson also received the Royal Society's Darwin Medal '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, Tucson, the Gould-Simpson Building was named for Arizona geologist Lawrence M. Gould and Simpson.Gould-Simpson Building, Univ. of Arizona {{webarchive|url= |date=June 15, 2009 }} Simpson was noted for his work in the field of paleogeography and continental evolution relationships.


In the 1960s, Simpson "rubbished the then-nascent science of exobiology, which concerneditself with life on places other than Earth, as a science without a subject".JOURNAL, Anon, 10.1038/440582a, Astrobiology at ten, Nature, 440, 7084, 582, 2006, 16572129, 2006Natur.440Q.582., He was raised as a Christian but later became an agnostic.BOOK, Simple Curiosity: Letters from George Gaylord Simpson to His Family, 1921-1970, 1987, University of California Press, 9780520057920, 16, Léo F. Laporte, By his early teens, Simpson had given up being a Christian, although he had not formally declared himself an atheist. At college he began the gradual development of what might best be called positivistic agnosticism: a belief that the world could be known and explained by ordinary empirical observation without recourse to supernatural forces. Ultimate causation, he considered unknowable.,


  • Attending marvels (1931)
  • Quantitative Zoology (1939)
  • Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944)
  • The Meaning of Evolution (1949, 1951)
  • Horses (1951)
  • Evolution and Geography (1953)
  • The Major Features of Evolution (1953)
  • Life: An Introduction to Biology (1957)
  • Quantitative Zoology (1960)
  • Principles of Animal Taxonomy (1961)
  • This View of Life (1964)
  • The Geography of Evolution (1965)
  • Penguins (1976)
  • Concession to the Improbable (1978) (an autobiography)
  • Fossils and the History Of Life (1983)
  • Splendid Isolation (1980)
  • The Dechronization of Sam Magruder (posthumously published novella, 1996)

See also



Further reading

  • JOURNAL, Aronson, J., 'Molecules and monkeys': George Gaylord Simpson and the challenge of molecular evolution, 10.1080/03919710210001714503, History & Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 24, 3–4, 441–465, 2002,
  • JOURNAL, Gershenowitz, H., George Gaylord Simpson and Lamarck, Indian Journal of History of Science, 13, 1, 56–61, 1978, 11615952,
  • JOURNAL, Laporte, L. O. F., Simpson on species, 10.1007/BF01058629, Journal of the History of Biology, 27, 1, 141–159, 1994, 11639257,
  • JOURNAL, Olson, E. C., George Gaylord Simpson: June 16, 1902-October 6, 1984, Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 60, 331–353, 1991, 11616139,
  • JOURNAL, Laporte, Léo F., George Gaylord Simpson as mentor and apologist for paleoanthropology, 10.1002/ajpa.1330840102, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 84, 1, 1–16, 1991, 2018099,
  • JOURNAL, Laporte, L. F., Simpson's Tempo and Mode in Evolution revisited, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 127, 6, 365–417, 1983, 11611330,

External links

{{Winners of the National Medal of Science|biological}}{{Authority control}}

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