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Stephen Jay Gould - 1941 - 2002

Would you believe that a scientist could be a rabid baseball fan? Would you believe that a scientist uses baseball to develop theories about ecology? Well, it is true. There was such a scientist, and his name was Stephen Gould.

How does a baseball nut – a N.Y. Yankee fan, no less – get to become a famous scientist?  For Stephen J. Gould, this was no problem. As a kid, Gould was an avid fan. Stephen remained a fan as an adult, but he also realized that baseball statistics contained certain principles that applied to his work on evolution.

Stephen grew up in New York City, the son of a dedicated Marxist, whose parents were Jewish immigrants. As a kid, the Marxist indoctrination from his father meant little. It was baseball, particularly the Yankees, that Stephen cared about. He went to public school in Queens section of the city. Early on, Stephen got interested in biology and evolution. Like most kids, he was interested in dinosaurs. Living in New York, Stephen got to see many real dinosaur skeletons at the American Museum of Natural History. He wrote later about his childhood dream: ‘I dreamed of becoming a scientist, in general, and a paleontologist, in particular, ever since the Tyrannosaurus skeleton awed and scared me.’ Kids sometimes made fun of him, calling him "fossil face." But, Stephen says his childhood wasn’t too bad. He said that the name calling was "no more than New York kids inevitably put up with." Also, he said, "the only time I ever got beat up was when I admitted to being a Yankee fan in Brooklyn. That was kind of dumb. "

Stephen never did become a political activist, nor even a Communist. He went to college at Antioch College in Ohio. He got his PhD from Columbia University. His work on evolution brought him such recognition that he was hired into the faculty at Harvard. At Harvard, his classes became very popular with students, because he gave funny talks, laced with anecdotes, cartoons, jokes, baseball stories, and put-downs of stuffy scientists.

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