(Gould, Stephen Jay) Wilford, John Noble | The Riddle of the Dinosaur

  • First edition, first printing. Presentation copy inscribed by the author on the half title, “To Stephen Jay Gould, Many thanks for the inspiration of your essays. Best wishes, John Noble Wilford”.

    A lovely copy of this popular account of recent developments in dinosaur palaeontology, including the discoveries that they were likely warm-blooded and that a comet probably caused their extinction, by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist John Noble Wilford (1933 - ). Wilford was responsible for the paper’s front-page story on the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, and his by-line was the only one that appeared on the front page that day. Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, described one of the sentences in the Moon landing piece – describing Armstrong’ heart-rate during the descent to the surface – as “one of the most elegant little uses of data I can recall seeing in a news article” (Dubner, “When Data Tell the Story”, Freakonomics blog, July 21, 2009).

    Recipient 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 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. In 1991 Wilford reviewed Gould’s fifth essay collection, Bully for Brontosaurus, calling its contents “provocative and delightfully discursive”.

  • ...Drawings by Douglas Henderson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

    Quarto. Original grey boards, cream cloth backstrip, titles to spine and author’s name to upper board in gilt and copper. With the dust jacket. 6 colour plates, illustrations and charts within the text. An excellent copy in the jacket with just a couple of miniscule rubbed spots and faint toning along the upper edges.