As a child, Dr. Steven M. Stanley grew up along the Chagrin River in northeast Ohio, where his family owned 24 acres of land amidst bountiful nature. He collected rocks and minerals in his childhood and was also interested in plants and animals and the hydrology of rivers and streams. He attended Princeton University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude in 1963. He obtained a PhD from Yale University in 1968. Two years after starting his professional career as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, he transferred to Johns Hopkins, where at the age of 32 he became the university’s youngest full professor. Later there he founded and chaired for 11 years, until he left the university, a part-time evening Master’s program that at any time had more than 250 students in Baltimore and Washington. Previously, Dr. Stanley has been a research professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Since 1972, he has been a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, where he maintains a laboratory. At this point in his career, Dr. Stanley is affiliated with the University of Florida.
Dr. Stanley has authored many articles in professional journals and has written several books, among them, in 1981, The New Evolutionary Timetable, which was nominated for an American Book Award, and in 1996, Children of the Ice Age: How a Global Catastrophe Allowed Humans to Evolve. His textbook Principles of Paleontology, coauthored with David Raup in 1971, changed the way paleontology was taught in the United States and abroad, and his historical geology text, now in its seventh edition and titled Earth System History has been used by about half a million students. His dissertation publication, “Relation of Shell Form to Life Habits in the Bivalvia (Mollusca)” is the largest body of work that any one person has produced on the functional skeletal morphology of a single class of animals. It is still cited about 30 times a year, nearly 50 years after its publication. His classic book Macroevolution: Pattern and Process is still cited about 40 times a year, forty years after its publication. His more recent studies on how changes in seawater chemistry have influenced the skeletal growth of marine life over the past half billion years established a new area of interdisciplinary research. He has also invented a new mathematical technique for assessing the impacts of mass extinctions that have shown the terminal Permian mass extinction, the most severe crisis of all time, did not nearly eliminate life on earth, as customarily claimed, but killed off about 80 percent of marine species.
Dr. Stanley has sat on two boards and one commission of the National Research Council and has served as president of both the Paleontological Society and the American Geosciences Institute. He has received many accolades, including the Paleontological Society Medal; the Twenhofel Medal, the highest award of the Society for Sedimentary Geology; the Mary Clark Thompson Medal of the National Academy of Sciences; and the Penrose Medal, the highest award of the Geological Society of America, “for eminence in pure research.” Looking to the future, he intends to publish a novel and another textbook.