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George Gaylord Simpson

Born June 16, 1902(1902-06-16)
Died October 6, 1984 (aged 82)
Nationality American
Fields Paleontology
Institutions Columbia University
Known for Modern synthesis; quantum evolution
Notable awards Linnean Society's Darwin-Wallace Medal 1958
Royal Society's Darwin Medal 1962

George Gaylord Simpson (16 June 1902 – 6 October 1984) was an American paleontologist. Simpson was perhaps the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, and a major participant in the modern evolutionary 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. 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.[1]

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.



He was awarded the Linnean Society of London's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal in 1958. He 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 George Gaylord Simpson.[2] Simpson was noted for his work in the field of paleogeography and continental evolution relationships.


  • Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.[3]
  • 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.[4]


  • Attending marvels (1931)
  • Mammals and land bridges (1940)
  • Tempo and mode in evolution (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)


  1. ^ George Gaylord Simpson, Types in Modern Taxonomy, published in American Journal of Science #238, 1940 p. 418.
  2. ^ Gould-Simpson Building, Univ. of Arizona. [1]
  3. ^ George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, revised edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), p. 345.
  4. ^ Larson, Edward J. (2004), Evolution, Modern Library, 250, ISBN 0-679-64288-9
  • Aronson, Jay D (2002), "'Molecules and monkeys': George Gaylord Simpson and the challenge of molecular evolution.", History and philosophy of the life sciences 24 (3–4): 441–65, doi:10.1080/03919710210001714503, PMID 15045833  
  • Laporte, L F (1994), "Simpson on species.", Journal of the history of biology 27 (1): 141–59, doi:10.1007/BF01058629, PMID 11639257  
  • Olson, E C (1991), "George Gaylord Simpson: June 16, 1902–October 6, 1984.", Biographical memoirs. National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) 60: 331–53, PMID 11616139  
  • Laporte, L F (1991), "George Gaylord Simpson as mentor and apologist for paleoanthropology.", Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 84 (1): 1–16, 1991 Jan, doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330840102, PMID 2018099  
  • Whittington, H B (1986), "George Gaylord Simpson: 16 June 1902–6 October 1984.", Biographical memoirs of fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society (Great Britain) 32: 525–39, PMID 11621258  
  • Laporte, L F (1983), "Simpson's Tempo and Mode in Evolution revisited.", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 127 (6): 365–417, 1983 Dec 30, PMID 11611330  
  • Gershenowitz, H (1978), "George Gaylord Simpson and Lamarck.", Indian journal of history of science 13 (1): 56–61, PMID 11615952  

External links

See also

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