Mar 202017

George Gaylord Simpson

One of the most ambitious series-within-a- series was a four-part summary entitled, The History of Life on Earth. The guide was George Gaylord Simpson, one of the world’s leading paleontologists and the author of The Meaning of Evolution.

Dr. Simpson began with fossil invertebrates seen under an electron microscope. With the aid of other curators we traced the tree of life to the arrival of man. We spent two hours explaining a half billion years.

Dr. Simpson was a man of sharp wit—when there were almost no letters of protest to his presentation of the theory of evolution he noted, “They don’t teach evolution the way they used to.”

The department of paleontology mounted the dinosaurs in the American Museum’s most visited hall. The joints of Tyrannosaurus Rex showed great deposits of calcium. We got a nice close-up of an arthritic bone that was 175 million years old. Undoubtedly the species suffered from the aching disease. The Kings of the Jurassic may have hobbled, rather than leapt.

Adventure never attracted a major audience, but some members of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton watched the program.  Dr. Albert Einstein told one of our contacts that he found Dr. Simpson stimulating. The suggestion was made that the German scientist would be willing to exchange views with Dr. Simpson on our program. The leading historian of time and space would meet a leading historian of the history of life.

Albert Einstein

America had a problem with the most famous physicist of the 20th Century. The FBI had a file of some 1500 pages alleging that he was not only a Communist, but had raised money for Communist organizations. Einstein was a certified and dangerous Red. Some of the FBI sources were prostitutes the scientist had allegedly used.

CBS itself was under attack from government committees, sponsors and affiliated stations, and had drawn up a blacklist, but it was inconceivable that Albert Einstein would be prohibited from appearing. I went to my boss and the decision was that if Einstein wanted to talk politics, the moderator would be Edward Murrow; but if he wanted to speak about science the program’s host, Charles Collingwood, would be the anchor.

I thought it only fair to inform the American Museum that the great scientist was a possible guest.  The Chairman of the Board was Alexander White, of White, Weld & Co, a leading Wall Street financial house.

Mr. White told me that he would not have that card carrying communist on a program coming from his Museum of Natural History.

I asked for his refusal in writing on the Einstein matter. He never sent it.

I heard later that Dr. Simpson attended two lunches with Albert Einstein.



George Gaylord Simpson, undated photo,

Albert Einstein, undated photo,