PHILADELPHIA — Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and popular author, died of abdominal mesothelioma Monday in New York City. He was 60.

A provocative and controversial thinker, Gould was a fierce public defender of evolution. He became a figurehead for paleontology by making difficult concepts more digestible for the public in forums such as The New York Times and The New York Review of Books.

While in graduate school, Gould and fellow student Niles Eldredge disputed the theories of evolution, which held that changes in organisms only occurred gradually, over eons. In their theory, known as punctuated equilibrium, evolution proceeded in bursts, followed by long periods of stasis. Thirty years later after their theory was first developed, the debate still rages.

Among the many awards and honors bestowed upon Gould were membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics...

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