Niles Eldredge

Most Influential Person

American biologist, (1941 - )

Why Is Niles Eldredge Influential?

Areas of Specialization: Evolutionary Biology
Niles Eldredge is a biologist and paleontologist. He studied Latin and geology as an undergraduate before earning a PhD at Columbia University. His career and research have been devoted to the exploration of paleontology and evolutionary theory.

As curator of the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Invertebrates, and later, Invertebrate Paleontology, he specialized in the study of the evolution of Phacopida trilobites, which went extinct roughly 245 million years ago.

A critic of the more common, gene-centered, view of evolution, he and collaborator Stephen Jay Gould have hypothesized that evolution occurs via multiple mechanisms, including environmental and ecological systems. Their theory, punctuated equilibrium, states that evolution occurs in shorter periods of accelerated change, separated by periods of stasis. His theoretical approach situates the evolutionary process within the historical and ecological context.

Eldredge is a prolific writer with more than 160 scientific works to his credit. His books include Reinventing Darwin: The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory, and Dominion, and more recently, Eternal Ephemera: Adaptation and the Origin of Species from the Nineteenth Century through Punctuated Equilibria and Beyond and Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective. In recent years, he has turned his attention to political activism, working to reject the rise of fascism.

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According to Wikipedia, Niles Eldredge is an American biologist and paleontologist, who, along with Stephen Jay Gould, proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium in 1972. Education Eldredge began his undergraduate studies in Latin at Columbia University. Before completing his degree he switched to the study of geology under Norman D. Newell. It was at this time that his work at the American Museum of Natural History began, under the combined Columbia University-American Museum graduate studies program.

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