Image of a cell

George G. Simpson

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For penetrating studies of vertebrate evolution through geologic time, and for scholarly synthesis of a new understanding of organic evolution based upon genetics and paleontology.

While his peers toiled with genes in laboratories, George G. Simpson trekked the Amazon River and turned over rocks in the badlands of New Mexico.

The quest for fossils – relics of prehistoric species – beckoned the paleontologist, eager to determine the origin of modern mammals.

In 1953, he returned from Colorado with the skulls of 15-inch-tall animals called “Dawn Horses.”rnThe herbivorous creatures had small brains and intelligence so low they likely wouldn’t have been trainable by humans.

Fast forward 50 million years, Simpson argued, and evolution yields the modern horse.

Through this fossil record and others, Simpson supported Charles Darwin’s theory that natural selection uses random differences within a population to weed out the weak, forming a species that’s fit to survive.

Humankind’s creation, he argued, was just as accidental. “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind,” Simpson said. “He was not planned.”