I find a proper introduction of George Gaylord Simpson in the citation for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science which the University of Arizona awarded him in 1982.
“Simpson is not only a paleonologist rare amongst his colleagues, he has made himself master of all the disciplines involved in the synthetic theory of evolution and particularly of taxonomy which makes him a great biologist. He is not only a biologist but a man of science with the widest horizon and experience.”
There is not adequate space to even outline Simpson’s magnificent scientific achievements. He did within 50 years travel to every continent and every state, usually accompanied with his partner-wife, Anne Roe Simpson, who not only made significant discoveries of vertebrate fossils but read and critiqued his writing. Surely a heroic task, for Simpson authored some 800 books and articles.
An event destined to have great influence on the life of Simpson occurred in 183 1. In that year the 22 year old Charles Darwin enlisted on H.M.S. Beagle to participate in a voyage that took four years to encircle the globe. Early on that voyage a stop was made in lower South America which enabled Darwin to explore parts of Patagonia and bring back a significant collection of fossils. One century and one year later the youthful Simpson followed in Darwin’s Patagonian steps and beyond them, bringing back the most important collection of vertebrate fossils yet found there. “Attending Marvels” is the delightful and informative record of that trip and remains one of his most popular books.
Figures & Tables
Vertebrates, Phylogeny, and Philosophy
Dr. George Gaylord Simpson, one of the most important evolutionary biologists of the Twentieth Century, was born on June 16, 1902 and died on October 6, 1984. His contributions to science include not only a modern synthesis of evolutionary thought, but original research on anthropology, mammalogy, paleontology, general biology, and statistics. His prolific writings were intended for scientific and non—scientific communities alike. He helped and encouraged many who now work in the fields of paleontology and evolutionary biology. Contributors to this book dedicate their efforts as tribute to his memory.
Included authors are colleagues, former students, and friends of Dr. Simpson’s. They represent but a few of the people he would have included in these categories. The book is intended to suggest only a sampling of the diversity of George Gaylord Simpson's impact on present vertebrate paleontology, from its most senior to its very junior participants.
Ms. Flanagan’s letter of invitation entreated the following from potential authors: "In the spirit of Dr. Simpson’s own writings, we encourage imaginative contributions that would be just a little different from items expected in a regular scientific journal." The title of the volume (Vertebrates, Phylogeny, and Philosophy) reflects that request. Though individual articles deal almost exclusively with fossil mammals, emphases cross the spectrum of evolutionary biology, including systematic paleontology, considerations of adaptation, ontogeny, analyses of evolutionary tem— po and mode, biogeographic procedure, and paleogeography. Philip Gingerich’s contribution stresses the crucial importance of solid empirical research to the foundations upon which theoretical/philosophical writings should be based. Mesozoic and Cenozoic taxa are considered, and two articles discuss the modern union of molecular biology, genetics, and paleontology. Most articles benefited directly from the pioneering writings of George Simpson, yet the breadth of concerns of this volume covers only a small fraction of the interests exhibited in his lifetime of evolutionary research.
Kathryn Flanagan served as principal correspondent with authors and reviewers. Jason Lillegraven had principal responsibility for manuscript editing and considerations of production.
We take this opportunity to thank the thirty-two authors for their contributions. Similarly, more than fifty individuals served as unpaid reviewers, and we give our most sincere thanks for their generosity of time and effort. Also, we thank Linda E. Lillegraven for creating the cover design.