An American author, science historian, evolutionary biologist, and paleontologist, he is best known for such popular science publications as The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Ever Since Darwin (1977), and Dinosaur in a Haystack (1995). Two years before his death, he was named a "Living Legend" by the U.S. Library of Congress.
He studied at Antioch College during the 1960s and frequently demonstrated on behalf of civil rights and social justice. He taught paleontology and geology at Harvard University for over three decades.
He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, in 1982. Though his prognosis was grim, he lived twenty more years.
He was born to Jewish immigrant parents in New York City. He was married twice and had two children and two stepchildren.
He and fellow science writer, Richard Dawkins , both contributed numerous articles to Natural History magazine.