George Gaylord Simpson
|Died||October 6, 1984 (aged 82)|
|Known for||Modern synthesis; quantum evolution|
|Doctoral advisor||Richard Swann Lull|
George Gaylord Simpson (June 16, 1902 – October 6, 1984) was an American 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 was extraordinarily knowledgeable about Mesozoic fossil mammals and fossil mammals of North and South America. 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 hypodigm in 1940, and published extensively on the taxonomy of fossil and extant mammals. Simpson was influentially, and incorrectly, opposed to Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift, but accepted the theory of plate tectonics (and continental drift) when the evidence became conclusive.
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 from 1968 until his retirement in 1982.
Awards and honors
Simpson was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1936 and the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1941. In 1943 Simpson was awarded the Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. For his work, Tempo and mode in evolution, he was awarded the academy's Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal in 1944. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1948. 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. In 1966, Simpson received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
At the University of Arizona, Tucson, the Gould-Simpson Building was named in honor of Simpson and Minnesota geologist and polar explorer Lawrence M. Gould, who, like Simpson, also accepted an appointment as Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona after his formal retirement. Simpson was noted for his work in the fields of paleobiogeography and animal evolution.
- Attending marvels (1931)
- Quantitative Zoology (1939)
- Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944)
- The Principles of Classification and A Classification of Mammals (1945)
- 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)
- Annie Montague Alexander, who helped finance some of his early work
- Whittington, H. B. (1986). "George Gaylord Simpson. 16 June 1902-6 October 1984". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 32: 525–39. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1986.0017. JSTOR 770122. PMID 11621258. S2CID 31570609.
- Simpson G.G. 1940. Mammals and land bridges. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 30: 137–163. See Charles H. Smith's website for full text: 
- Simpson, G. G. (1940). "Types in modern taxonomy". American Journal of Science. 238 (6): 413–426. Bibcode:1940AmJS..238..413S. doi:10.2475/ajs.238.6.413. p. 418.
- 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.
- "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved May 31, 2023.
- "George G. Simpson". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved May 31, 2023.
- "Mary Clark Thompson Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on August 1, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "George Gaylord Simpson". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. February 9, 2023. Retrieved May 31, 2023.
- "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- Gould-Simpson Building, Univ. of Arizona Archived June 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Anon (2006). "Astrobiology at ten". Nature. 440 (7084): 582. Bibcode:2006Natur.440Q.582.. doi:10.1038/440582a. PMID 16572129.
- Léo F. Laporte, ed. (1987). Simple Curiosity: Letters from Gaylord Simpson to His Family, 1921-1970. University of California Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780520057920.
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.
- Aronson, J. (2002). "'Molecules and monkeys': George Gaylord Simpson and the challenge of molecular evolution". History & Philosophy of the Life Sciences. 24 (3–4): 441–465. doi:10.1080/03919710210001714503. PMID 15045833.
- Gershenowitz, H. (1978). "George Gaylord Simpson and Lamarck". Indian Journal of History of Science. 13 (1): 56–61. PMID 11615952.
- Laporte, L. O. F. (1994). "Simpson on species". Journal of the History of Biology. 27 (1): 141–159. doi:10.1007/BF01058629. PMID 11639257. S2CID 34975382.
- Olson, E. C. (1991). "George Gaylord Simpson: June 16, 1902-October 6, 1984". Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences. 60: 331–353. PMID 11616139.
- Laporte, Léo F. (1991). "George Gaylord Simpson as mentor and apologist for paleoanthropology". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 84 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330840102. PMID 2018099.
- Laporte, L. F. (1983). "Simpson's Tempo and Mode in Evolution revisited". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 127 (6): 365–417. PMID 11611330.
- George Gaylord Simpson — full and comprehensive biography by L. F. Laporte
- George Gaylord Simpson Archived August 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine — biographical sketch from The Stephen Jay Gould Archive
- George Gaylord Simpson — a short biography from the PBS Evolution website
- George Gaylord Simpson Papers, American Philosophical Society.
- George Gaylord Simpson — Open Library