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Niles Eldredge

Niles Eldredge

When Niles Eldredge was in school, his favorite subject was Latin. He claims that he was not a science person”. Today he is a well-known evolutionary biologist and the author of dozens of books for adults and children, students and scientists, and the general reading public. The subjects he writes about range from trilobites to patterns of extinction, from evolution to biodiversity. 

What Drives Evolution?

He has worked at the American Museum of Natural History for nearly 30 years, doing research and teaching. He is a Curator in the Department of Invertebrates and heads the team of curators who made the new Hall of Biodiversity at the Museum. He has devoted his entire career to affecting a better fit between evolutionary theory and the fossil record. In recent years, he has focused on the mass extinctions of the geological past and their implications for understanding the modern biodiversity crisis and future human ecological and evolutionary prospects. He attended Columbia, where he studied languages, then met the woman who is now his wife, who was hanging out with a bunch of anthropology majors, so he left Latin and switched over to anthropology. Niles was still an undergraduate when he came to AMNH to work on a project sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The Museum was a place he had loved since he was a child growing up in Westchester County. As a Columbia doctoral student, he continued his research at AMNH. Then, in 1969, when he was looking for a job in his field, he was asked to stay on at the Museum. To Niles, being a paleontologist is not all that different from being a historian or studying Latin. He believes that if you are passionately interested in something, it’s not hard. 

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