American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science in his generation. He spent most career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of natural history in NY. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, after which he divided his time teaching between there and Harvard.
Gould's most important contribution to evolutionary biology is the discontinuous equilibrium theory proposed in 1972 with Niles Eldredge. The theory proposes that most evolution is characterized by long-term evolutionary stability, rarely interrupted by rapid branch speciation. The theory contrasts with taxon asymptotics, a popular view that evolutionary change is characterized by smooth and continuous patterns of change in the fossil record. His book Ontogeny and Phylogeny has received wide professional recognition. In evolution, he opposed strict selection theory, sociobiology applied to humans, and evolutionary psychology. He opposed creationism and suggested treating science and religion as two distinct fields whose authorities did not overlap.
Gould also made significant contributions to evolutionary developmental biology, especially in his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny. In this book, he emphasizes the process of metachronism, which includes two distinct processes: neoteny and terminal addition. Neoteny is the process by which ontogeny slows down and the organism does not reach its developmental endpoint. Terminal addition is the process by which an organism increases its development by speeding up and shortening the early stages of the developmental process. Gould's influence in the field of evolutionary developmental biology continues today in areas such as the evolution of feathers.
Gould is also an advocate for medical marijuana. While undergoing cancer treatment, he smoked marijuana to help relieve chronic intense, and uncontrollable nausea. According to Gould, the drug had "the most important impact" on his eventual recovery. He later complained that he could not comprehend "how any human being could deny such a beneficial substance to a man in such great need simply because others use it for a different purpose." Gould's August 5, 1998 Testimony helped HIV activist Jim Wakeford successfully file a lawsuit against the Canadian government over the right to grow, possess and use marijuana for medical purposes.