Geology & Earth Science

Gould, Stephen Jay | Dinosaur in a Haystack

  • First edition, first printing and a beautiful association copy inscribed by the author on the half title, “For Richard & Judy, All the best, dear old friends, Steve. Stephen Jay Gould”.

    Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. His theory of punctuated equilibria challenged 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 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 three hundred essays that were originally published in Natural History Magazine.

    Dinosaur in a Haystack collects thirty-four of these essays, most notably the title piece, which discusses how rates of fossil survival influence theories of mass extinction, and “Dinomania”, his review of the film Jurassic Park and astute analysis of the explosion of interest in dinosaurs during the late 20th century. “...dinosaurs were just as big, as fierce, and as extinct forty years ago, but only a few nerdy kids, and even fewer professional palaentologists, gave a damn about them... why now and not before?”

    The recipients of this volume were Richard and Judy Milner. Richard and Gould were childhood friends, and Richard eventually became a historian of science and Gould’s editor at Natural History Magazine. “In 1953, two sixth graders in Bayside, Queens, became best friends after they discovered their shared passions for Gilbert & Sullivan operas, dinosaurs, the American Museum of Natural History and Charles Darwin. In their pantheon of heroes, Darwin ranked above even Joe DiMaggio. Their classmates, of course, considered them geeks and bestowed appropriate nicknames: Fossilface and Dino. Fossilface grew up to become an evolutionary biologist better known as Stephen Jay Gould” (Tierney, “Darwin the Comedian”, The New York Times, 9 February, 2009).
  • ...Reflections in Natural History. New York: Harmony Books, 1995.
    Octavo. Original black quarter cloth, black boards, title to spine in red. With the dust jacket. Illustrations within the text. A fine copy in the jacket.