Stephen Jay Gould, author of The Panda’s Thumb and other popular essay collections, is born on this day.
Gould grew up in Queens, New York, the son of a court stenographer without a college degree. Although Gould grew up to be a prominent paleontologist and biologist, he kept the common touch, writing dozens of accessible essays about evolution that became popular with lay readers. He has taught paleontology and zoology at Harvard for more than three decades. His books include The Panda’s Thumb (1981), The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Eight Little Piggies (1993), Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (1998), and several others. He wrote monthly essays for Natural History magazine for more than 20 years, and his essays have also appeared in The New York Review of Books, Discover and Nature. His work has won many awards, including the National Book Award.