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Completed shortly before his death, this is the last work of science from the most celebrated popular science writer in the world. In characteristic form, Gould weaves the ideas of some of Western society's greatest thinkers, from Bacon to Galileo to E. O. Wilson, with the uncelebrated ideas of lesser-known yet pivotal intellectuals. He uses their ides to undo an assumption born in the seventeenth century and continuing to this day, that science and the humanities stand in opposition. Gould uses the metaphor of the hedgehog - who goes after one thing at a measured pace, systematically investigating all; the fox - skilled at many things, intuitive and fast; and the magister's pox - a censure form the Catholic Church involved in Galileo's downfall: a metaphor which illustrates the different ways of responding to knowledge - in a scientific, humanistic or fearful way. He argues that in fact each would benefit by borrowing from the other.
Stephen Jay Gould was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and professor of geology at Harvard and the curator for invertebrate palaeontology in the university's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He died in May 2002.