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GOULD, Stephen Jay.

Ontogeny and Phylogeny.

Published: Cambridge, MA & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977

Stock code: 101441

Price: £475

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First edition, first printing of the author’s first book. Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002), a professor of zoology and paleontology at Harvard, was a leading light among biologists at the end of the previous century. His development of the theory of punctuated equilibria, the argument that evolution occurs in rapid bursts of speciation separated by long periods of stasis, radically revised the received wisdom that evolution was the slow, constant accumulation of changes. He was also an unrelenting defender of evolutionary theory against the political ambitions of creationist groups, and publicly contested the field of sociobiology, which he believed provided a pseudoscientific basis for discrimination. But he was best known to the public from his series of 300 essays published in Natural History Magazine, and numerous books for a general audience. Ontogeny and Phylogeny was written, at the suggestion of Ernst Mayr, as a way to become comfortable with long-form writing in preparation for producing The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, his major work on punctuated equilibrium. It explores the relationship between embryonic development and evolution, and includes analyses of disproven historical theories, such as Haeckel’s argument that ontongeny recapitulates phylogeny. Of all Gould’s books, “the one with the most impact is probably Ontogeny and Phylogeny … to say that this work is a hallmark in this area of evolutionary theory would be an understatement. It proved to be the catalyst for much of the future work in the field, and to a large degree was the inspiration for the modern field of ‘evolutionary developmental biology’. Gould’s hope was to show that the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny is fundamental to evolution, and at its heart is a simple premise—that variations in the timing and rate of development provide the raw material upon which natural selection can operate” (MacNamara, Heterochrony, disparity and macroevolution). Published before Gould became a scientific super-star.

Octavo. Original brown cloth, titles to spine in silver, green endpapers. With the dust jacket. Illustrations throughout the text. Light rubbing at corners, mild bumping to spine, in the dust jacket with spine and edges toned, light creasing along top edges, light soiling to rear panel. A very good copy.

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