George Gaylord Simpson

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George Gaylord Simpson (born June 16, 1902 in Chicago , Illinois , † October 6, 1984 in Tucson , Arizona ) was an American paleontologist . He was an expert on extinct mammals and their intercontinental migrations, as well as on prehistoric penguins .

Simpson was one of the most influential paleontologists in the 20th century. He was professor of zoology at Columbia University in New York and curator of geology and paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1945 to 1959 and curator at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University .


George Gaylord Simpson was born on June 16, 1902 in Chicago, Illinois. He and his two older sisters were raised strictly Presbyterian. He spent most of his youth in Denver , Colorado . Simpson studied at the University of Colorado from 1918 to 1922 and at Yale University from 1922 to 1926, where he graduated with a BA in 1923 and a Ph. D. in 1926. His doctoral thesis entitled " American Mesozoic Mammalia " dealt with American mammals in the Mesozoic Era . Simpson married his second wife Anne Roe, a statistician and clinical psychologist, in 1938.

In 1926 and 1927 he worked at the Natural History Museum in London and from 1927 to 1959 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He went on several expeditions in America and Patagonia to find fossils.

As a captain and later as a major, he served in the US Army from 1942 to 1944. After the war he was employed as professor of zoology at Columbia University from 1945 to 1959. From 1959 to 1970 he was a curator at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. From 1967 to 1984 he was a professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.

George Gaylord Simpson died on October 6, 1984 in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 82.

Honors and memberships

Simpson was a member of the National Academy of Sciences . In 1936 he was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society , which in 1943 awarded him the John Frederick Lewis Award for his work The Beginnings of Vertebrate Paleontology in North America . In 1948 Simpson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

In 1944 Simpson received the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, in 1952 the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America , and in 1959 the Darwin Plaque of the Leopoldina . In 1958 he was elected as a "Foreign Member" in the Royal Society , which in 1962 awarded him the Darwin Medal . Also in 1962 he was awarded the Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society of London ; In 1966 he received the National Medal of Science . The Romer-Simpson Medal was named in his honor , an award in the field of vertebrate paleontology of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology , of which he was an honorary member (1969). In 1972 he was accepted as a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences .

Simpson received honorary doctorates from the University of Colorado, the University of New Mexico, the University of Chicago , Yale University, and York University.


  • "Simpson made paleontology a partner in evolutionary theory" Stephen Jay Gould
  • "Man is the product of an aimless and natural process that did not have him in mind"
  • "The monkey, which had no realistic perception of the branch it jumped at, was soon a dead monkey - and therefore does not belong to our ancestors"


  • Léo F. Laporte: George Gaylord Simpson: Paleontologist and Evolutionist. Biography. 2000, ISBN 0-231-12065-6 .


See also

Architects of the synthetic theory of evolution 1930–1950:

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Members of the American Academy. Listed by election year, 1900-1949 ( PDF ). Retrieved October 11, 2015
  2. ^ Romer-Simpson Medal. ( Memento July 15, 2010 on the Internet Archive ) Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
  3. ^ George Gaylord Simpson's obituary in the 1985 yearbook of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (PDF file).

Web links