Paleontology has long had a troubled relationship with evolutionary biology. Suffering from a reputation as a second-tier science and conjuring images of fossil collectors and amateurs who dig up bones, paleontology was marginalized even by Darwin himself, who worried that incompleteness in the fossil record would be used against his theory of evolution. But with the establishment of the modern synthesis in the 1940s and the pioneering work of George Gaylord Simpson, Ernst Mayr, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, as well as the subsequent efforts of Stephen Jay Gould, David Raup, and James Valentine, paleontology became embedded in biology and emerged as paleobiology, a first-rate discipline central to evolutionary studies.
This incredible ascendance of this once-maligned science to the vanguard of a field is chronicled in The Paleobiological Revolution. Pairing contributions from some of the leading actors of the transformation with overviews from historians and philosophers of science, the essays here capture the excitement of the seismic changes in the discipline. In so doing, David Sepkoski and Michael Ruse harness the energy of the past to call for further study of the conceptual development of modern paleobiology.