Stephen Jay Gould, R.I.P

According to this article on Yahoo, Stephen Jay Gould died of cancer today at the age of 60. He was a a witty and engaging popularizer of science and an indefatigable voice of common sense and and reason in a world of pseudoscience and magic-mongers.

He will be missed.

Damn! He just published his magnum opus on the history of Evolutionary Theory, too.

Did he know this was coming? He was always aware of his health situation. Maybe this is why he quit his Natural History column of so many years and devoted himself to his book.

I’ve got most of his books. Great essays and engaging books. I’ll miss him.

Amen to that.

He was everything you said – and one of the things I most loved about him was his wide-ranging intellect that would not accept the popular wisdom. (For example, did you know that Archbishop Ussher of 4004-BC-creation-date infamy actually arrived at that through the best historiographical methods available at the time, not out of some benighted prove-the-Bible-right foolishness? It was Gould, himself an atheist, who researched out that fact and documented it in an article in Natural History, reprinted in one of his wonderful books of essays.)

That’s terrible. I didn’t even know he was sick.

Are there any evolutionists of his calibre left? I’m sure there are, but there probably aren’t any with such public recognition.

To paraphrase Carl Sagan a bit, a candle of light in this demon-haunted world has gone out.
I will wear one of my pro-evolution t-shirts to work tomorrow in his honor.

Man, I loved his pieces in Discover magazine. I’m not the least bit interested in biology, but I always had to read his articles. Science writing at its best.

Oh, dear, oh, dear. First Carl Sagan and now him—let’s all hope that James Randi stays in good health.

(Oh gosh—I hope no one thinks my “Death of a Dumbell” thread is about THIS!)

Randi went and got an echocardiogram last year after Sylvia Browne told him that he should have his left ventricle checked. (In a 60-odd year old man with a documented history of heart problems? Way to go out on a limb there, Sylvia.) It showed that his heart was in remarkably good shape for a man of his age with his history. So at least there’s that. :slight_smile:

As for SJG, the army in the fight against ignorance has lost one of its finest soldiers. :frowning:

Dr. J

It’s a sad loss to science and to the good fight.

oh my. i hadn’t heard. i’m really saddened that i never got to hear one of his lectures. even though i don’t buy all of his arguments, he always had the most engaging way of reducing evolutionary theory into engaging and grasp-able dynamic phenomena.

Oh, this is so sad. I heard one of his lectures a few years ago, and he was so engaging. I didn’t even know he had been ill.

Yow! That’s a large blow to evolutionary biology. I ordered his new book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, just this morning.

And I keep expecting to hear that Martin Gardner’s passed on one of these days. He’s getting up there in years, too. I think he gave up his regular Skeptical Inquirer article recently, too. At least the two most recent issues haven’t had it.

I’m very sorry to hear that. I heard him give a brilliant lecture at the University of Colorado in the late 1970s, long before he gained such wide fame. If I recall correctly, he started off a lecture about allometric growth by showing posters of giant insects from horror films.

Gould developed a rare form of cancer quite a while ago - I forget when I first heard, but it may have been more than 10 years ago. I vaguely recall that, ironically, it may have been due to asbestos or some other contaminant in his highly prestigious Harvard office. He beat it temporarily, but he may have been living on borrowed time for more than a decade. It’s a shame he died so soon, but he had more time than he himself had expected.

There are plenty of other high-powered evolutionary theoreticians, but none write for the public as well as Gould did. Even his technical works were readable, such as Ontogeny and Phylogeny.

I found a reference: Gould developed abdominal mesothelioma, a rare cancer, in 1982, which was regarded as virtually always fatal at the time. So he had an extra 20 years beyond what might have been expected.

In don’t often comment on the purpose of the boards, but now I feel compelled to do so.

We fight ignorance here, as Gould did. When the great among us fall, we must take up their burdens as best we can and carry them onward. I think the greatest tribute we can offer his memory is to continue to be what we are. We cannot replace him, but neither can we allow the torch he bore to gutter and die.

Wow. Opening MPSIMS has rarely, if ever, been so shocking to me- this thread was right at the top. I regret that I never made it to one of his lectures. He was one of the best science writers ever, and he will be missed in many ways by many people.

Here’s Gould’s own meditation on his original diagnosis:

The Median Isn’t the Message

Gould rather typically used the most shocking kind of personal event as jumping off point for an article on the meaning of statistics.

When Gould was diagnosed in 1982, mesothelioma was regarded as invariably fatal with a median survival time of eight months after diagnosis. He beat those odds in a big way.

oh, my.

I don’t know what to say. he will be missed. What an incredibly smart man.

Damn. Damn damn damn damn.

What an utter loss.

Just found out over at a.f.c-a

My initial reaction: Oh, Damn, damn!!
My next reaction: That’s a whole lot of work to be picked up by the rest of us, lacking his gifts.

This is a significant loss in the struggle against ignorance. It is also the loss of a remarkably well-rounded human being, with wide-ranging interests that give the lie to anyone who tries to claim that a scientific understanding of the universe deprives your life of emotional meaning.

I am sad. But I believe that his work will be carried on by those he helped educate and influence. Not just in the exploration of the history of life on this earth, but in the fight against those who would mismeasure man to suit their agendas. I’d be proud to help in any way to carry on.