Morris Goodman Died

The distinguished evolutionary biologist Morris Goodman died on November 14, 2010, at the age of 85, according to the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 12, 1925, Goodman attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1943. Returning to Wisconsin, he earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in zoology. After a series of postdoctoral appointments, in 1958 he took a position at Wayne State University, where he remained for fifty-two years. In the late 1950s, he became interested in evolution, and swiftly became a pioneer in molecular systematics, especially as applied to primates. Describing a 1975 paper using hemoglobin sequence data, he commented, "I think we were the first to get hard evidence of Darwinian evolution." His honors included election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and the Charles R. Darwin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Goodman's scientific prominence, as well as his controversial proposal that chimpanzees and bonobos be reclassified from the genus Pan to the genus Homo, resulted in his frequently serving as a target of creationists.

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I wasn't aware he had proposed synonymizing Pan with Homo. I did read a short piece by Jared Diamond pointing out that genetic differences were on the order of those found among species within a genus. I suppose this was based on Goodman's work. Apparently Diamond was unaware that Homo has priority over Pan, because he was not clear on that point. I think there are enough morphological differences between present day Pan and Homo species to justify retaining them in separate genera. To be more specific, that is what I would think if they were fishes.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 18 Nov 2010 #permalink