stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionary theorist at Harvard University, usa, whose pioneering work put paleontology back on the academic high ground, died on May 20, 2002, of cancer. He was 60.
One of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, his theory of punctuated equilibrium evoked as much respect as derision. There are long periods of time, sometimes millions of years, during which species change little, if at all and then rapid evolutionary changes occur, went Gould's theory. Famed for his writings on the matters of science and for his arrogance, Gould remained at constant loggerheads with other group of evolutionary biologists -- the ultra-darwanists -- primarily geneticists, who contend that the basic unit of evolution is not species, but genes found within species.
Gould's cancer was detected in 1982. He reacted to it by writing the well-known essay titled 'The median is not the message'. Upon reading that he had a 'median mortality of eight months after detection' of cancer, he went about deciphering the garble. Armed with his knowledge, he bravely battled with the fatal disease. He has left behind a legacy, and a heated debate that promises to rage on for years to come.