June 16, 1902 (a Monday)

George Gaylord Simpson

On this date, the American evolutionary biologist George Gaylord Simpson was born. Simpson was the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century and a major participant in the Modern Synthesis, contributing Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944) and Principles of Classification and a Classification of Mammals (1945). Among other things, he is notable for anticipating such concepts as punctuated equilibrium (in his 1944 work, see quantum evolution), and dispelling the myth that the evolution of the horse was a linear process culminating in the modern Equus caballus.

[My favorite Simpson quotes – Ed.:]

“Any sensitive person must feel a basically religious awe in the face of the mysteries of life and of the universe, but belief in an anthropomorphic god, in a savior, or in a prophet is nonsense” (Autobiographical Notes, 1970, p. 17).

“The fact – not theory – that evolution has occurred and the Darwinian theory as to how it occurred have become so confused in popular opinion that the distinction must be stressed” (This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist, 1964, p. 10).

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