Dearly Departed: George Gaylord Simpson

Written by Salaam Sbini, a fourth year history student participating in the IMLS, “Strategic Stewardship for Sustaining the Archives of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology” project.

One can imagine having an interest in something that tends to move, breathe, and live. Maybe an organism of some sort, or an interest in something possibly more abstract, but nonetheless in existence. George G. Simpson’s interest was in both. Considered the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, Simpson’s area of study was not only restricted to the study of fossils and mammals which roamed the earth thousands of years ago, but also in evolutionary biology.

Simpson in 1965.

George G. Simpson combined paleontology into the modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution. Attempting to utilize fossil records “as a sampling of ancient breeding populations,” thus creating an exciting reemergence of the paleontology field, and adding a component of evolutionary biology. Simpson was president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and communicated with Alden H. Miller (director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the time) through one of the correspondence letters, to create and establish a journal for the field of evolution. The letter was dated the same year as the organization itself was just established. The journal was quickly established the following year. A man of many talents, scientific rigor, and obvious accomplishments in different respected fields, George Simpson was a trailblazer. No biography of himself or his work could better attest except that of Eugene Raymond Hall’s (curator and at times acting director of MVZ) letter to Simpson in 1942 that simply included, “as always, your productivity is a stimulus to those of us who do not get quite so much done as yourself.”


McFadden, Robert D. “George G. Simpson, 82, Dies; A Vertebrate Paleontoglogist.” The New York Times. 1984.

Stephen Jay Gould Archive. “S.J.G. Archive: People: G.G. Simpson.” Biography Sketch.


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