Steven Jay Gould, professor of Geology, yesterday received the latest in a series of honors--the National Book Critics' Circle Award for general non-fiction for his book, "The Mismeasure of Man."
The prize citation praised the book for thoughtfully exploring "the history of the concept of intelligence and exposing the roots of its measurement under cultural and racial prejudice."
Gould said yesterday he was "of course very glad to get the award," but added, "I don't know why they'd want to give it to me." Last month Discover Magazine named Gould its "Scientist of the Year" for his work in theoretical evolution.
"The Mismeasure of Man" is the first book written by a scientist to win a Book Critics' Circle award, though others, including "Sociobiology" by E.O. Wilson, Baird Professor of Science, have been nominated in the past.
Robert Harris, critic for the Saturday Review and a director of the Critics' Circle, called "The Mismeasure of Man" "a timely book on a timely subject." He added that recognition of the importance of Gould's other works contributed to his selection.
"The Mismeasure of Man" criticizes the pseudo-scientific beliefs about intelligence such as craniometry, which correlated brain volume and intellectual capability." It also tells how researchers ignored data to fit preconception, as when scientists "proved" identical twins to be identically intelligent.
Gould was recently honored with a no-strings grant for $200,000 over the next five years by the MacArthur Foundation. One of his earlier books, "The Panda's Thumb," won an American Book Award for science in 1981.
Since 1974, the National Book Critics' Circle,, a group of 300 critics and reviewers, has chosen four books each year for praise