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Gould, Stephen Jay | Ontogeny and Phylogeny

  • First edition, first printing of the author’s first book.

    Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. His theory of “punctuated equilibria” radically revised the idea that evolution is a slow and constant accumulation of changes, pointing out that instead it often occurs in rapid bursts of speciation followed by periods of stasis. He was a prominent defender of the teaching of evolution in schools, and a leading critic of the field of sociobiology, which he saw as providing a pseudoscientific basis for discrimination. But he was best known as a popular science writer, penning numerous books and a series of 300 essays for a general audience.

    Gould's first book, Ontogeny and Phylogeny, was written at the suggestion of Ernst Mayr as a way to become comfortable with long-form writing before tackling The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, his magnum opus on punctuated equilibria. It explores the relationship between embryonic development and evolution, and includes analyses of disproven theories, such as Haeckel’s hypotheses that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Of all Gould’s books, Ontogeny and Phylogeny is “the one with the most impact... to say that this work is a hallmark in this area of evolutionary theory would be an understatement. it proved the catalyst for much of the future work in the field, and to a large degree was the inspiration for the modern field of ‘evolutionary developmental biology’. Gould’s hope was to show that the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny is fundamental to evolution, and at its heart is a simple premise—that variations in the timing and rate of development provide the raw material upon which natural selection can operate” (MacNamara, “Heterochrony, Disparity and Macroevolution”, Paleobiology 31(2), 2005, pp. 17-26).

  • Cambridge, MA & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977.

    Octavo. Original brown cloth, titles to spine in silver, green endpapers. With the dust jacket. Frontispiece and illustrations throughout the text. Small, faint ink stamp to the half title. Cloth lightly rubbed at the extremities. An excellent copy in the jacket with some dampstain and cockling affecting the upper and lower panels.