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Ernst W. Mayr quotes (showing 1-19 of 19)

“Every politician, clergyman, educator, or physician, in short, anyone dealing with human individuals, is bound to make grave mistakes if he ignores these two great truths of population zoology: (1) no two individuals are alike, and (2) both environment and genetic endowment make a contribution to nearly every trait.”
Ernst W. Mayr
“According to the concept of transformational evolution, first clearly articulated by Lamarck, evolution consists of the gradual transformation of organisms from one condition of existence to another.”
Ernst W. Mayr
“I published that theory [of speciational evolution] in a 1954 paper…and I clearly related it to paleontology. Darwin argued that the fossil record is very incomplete because some species fossilize better than others... I noted that you are never going to find evidence of a small local population that changed very rapidly in the fossil record... Gould was my course assistant at Harvard where I presented this theory again and again for three years. So he knew it thoroughly. So did Eldredge. In fact, in his 1971 paper Eldredge credited me with it. But that was lost over time.”
Ernst W. Mayr
“Truly, Buffon was the father of all thought in natural history in the second half of the 18th century.”
Ernst W. Mayr
“The funny thing is if in England, you ask a man in the street who the greatest living Darwinian is, he will say Richard Dawkins. And indeed, Dawkins has done a marvelous job of popularizing Darwinism. But Dawkins' basic theory of the gene being the object of evolution is totally non-Darwinian.”
Ernst W. Mayr
“Evolution, thus, is merely contingent on certain processes articulated by Darwin: variation and selection. No longer is a fixed object transformed, as in transformational evolution, but an entirely new start is, so to speak, made in every generation.”
Ernst W. Mayr, Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist
“No amphibian succeeded in adapting to salt water.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“Actually, the entire ascent of life can be presented as an adaptive radiation in the time dimension. From the beginning of replicating molecules to the formation of membrane-bounded cells, the formation of chromosomes, the origin of nucleated eukaryotes, the formation of multicellular organisms, the rise of endothermy, and the evolution of a large and highly complex central nervous system, each of these steps permitted the utilization of a different set of environmental resources, that is, the occupation of a different adaptive zone.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“{On to contributions to evolutionary biology of 18th century French scientist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon}

He was not an evolutionary biologist, yet he was the father of evolutionism. He was the first person to discuss a large number of evolutionary problems, problems that before Buffon had not been raised by anybody.... he brought them to the attention of the scientific world.

Except for Aristotle and Darwin, no other student of organisms [whole animals and plants] has had as far-reaching an influence.

He brought the idea of evolution into the realm of science. He developed a concept of the "unity of type", a precursor of comparative anatomy. More than anyone else, he was responsible for the acceptance of a long-time scale for the history of the earth. He was one of the first to imply that you get inheritance from your parents, in a description based on similarities between elephants and mammoths. And yet, he hindered evolution by his frequent endorsement of the immutability of species. He provided a criterion of species, fertility among members of a species, that was thought impregnable.”
Ernst W. Mayr
“And it is this randomness of variation that is responsible for the enormous, often quite bizarre diversity of the living world.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“A plant on the edge of a desert is said to struggle for life against the drought, though more properly it should be said to be dependent on the moisture”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“Some insignificant and probably nocturnal mammals also survived and experienced in the Paleocene and Eocene a spectacular radiation, producing all the orders and many of the families of the now living mammals.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“Therefore, it came as a terrible shock to the Victorian age when Darwin, following his theory of common descent, incorporated the human species into the animal kingdom as a descendant of primate ancestors.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“To use the molecular clock in such a way requires the calibration of its “ticking rate.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“The searching human mind is not satisfied merely to discover facts. We also want to know how things happen and why.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“The principle of adaptationism has been adopted so widely by Darwinians because it is such a heuristic methodology.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“No one could have predicted that a defenseless, slow-moving biped should become the pinnacle of Creation.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“This uneven rate of evolution of different properties of an organism is called mosaic evolution , and it may create difficulties for classification.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is
“Furthermore, it is observed in general that the smaller the population size of a species is, the more vulnerable it will be to extinction.”
Ernst W. Mayr, What Evolution Is


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