Peter Ward’s Hero

The biologist and paleontologist remembers “the smartest man [he’s] ever known.”
  • Transcript


Question: Who are your heroes, scientific or otherwise?

Peter Ward: My heroes were actually the great dinosaur hunters of the American Museum, Roy Chapman Andrews, Granger and those guys. Sagan is certainly a hero. I have a lot of heroes within my own disciplines that are probably too arcane, but Stephen J. Gould is perhaps my greatest hero. I knew him very well. I knew him well enough that I got in trouble a lot with him. He sort of viewed me as his cantankerous younger brother. He once told me, “Peter, you’ll never be great, but you’re pretty good.” Now, that’s quite a slap in the face, right? We all want to be great. But it was from Steve, so I’m great and you’re not as great as me, but I like the fact that you’re doing good work. It was that sort of relationship, okay. But I miss him. I miss his voice. He was the greatest single public speaker I’ve ever, ever heard. He was also the smartest man I’ve ever known. I’ve known quite a few intelligent people, but his processing speed was beyond belief. It’s a great voice lost.

Recorded on January 11, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen