George G. Simpson (1902-1984) had an enormously successful career for some fifty years during the middle of the twentieth century. Owing to his great intellect, especially his deep analytic skill and broad synthetic insight as well as his single-minded persistence, he produced a large body of published work that became an integral part of modern evolutionary theory. His high level of scientific achievement can be gauged by the number and quality of his publications, his institutional affiliations, his honors and awards, and the recognition he received in mainstream popular culture.1 Because Simpson was arguably the leading paleontologist of the last century and a major contributor to the ‘modern evolutionary synthesis’ I informed him of my biographical interest and asked for a personal interview. I sought further permission to interview his family, colleagues, and former students. For all interviews, I prepared a dozen leading questions, but also allowed interviewees to decide what was important. I encouraged tangential remarks and hence surprising insights were revealed. If possible, I corroborated what the interviewees told me; I did not take everything at face value. I always kept the emphasis on the content and character of Simpson's scientific accomplishments, avoiding ‘psycho-biography.’ I visited archives for unpublished documents—relevant personal letters, photographs, notes, newspaper clippings—and checked school and university records. I traveled to places where he grew up, attended school, was employed, and did field work. I divided the work into stand-alone articles, beginning with the easier and more obvious ones. I published these serially so they could later be revised, reassembled, and crafted into the final larger, unified biography. Doing research and writing in this way, I kept the longer-term project moving forward, making necessary course corrections as I went along. I thus established my credibility, advanced the research, and expanded the sources of information. Piece-meal publication satisfied deans and made possible a graceful escape if the project stalled, or I lost interest. However, seeing my work in print further motivated me to complete the task. Reviews were very positive, but sales more disappointing. Un succès estime!? (Laporte 2000a).

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