According to a statement from the University of Massachusetts where she was a professor of geosciences, Margulis died at her home on Tuesday. She was 73.
Margulis was best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which challenges Neo-Darwinism by arguing that inherited variation does not come from random mutations but long-lasting interaction between organisms.
She was also a strong proponent of the Gaia hypothesis that the earth acts as a living organism.
Some say she drifted away from good science in her late career. In April, University of Chicago professor Jerry A. Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, said her later theories are “bad for science.”
In the last couple decades she’s been going around casting doubt on modern evolutionary theory. She has said, for example, that modern evolutionary biology is “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology” and that “Neo-Darwinism, which insists on (the slow accrual of mutations), is in a complete funk.” Since she’s famous, she’s invited many places, and often uses these occasions to dump on modern evolutionary biology. In this respect she may be worse for science than creationists, since her scientific credibility remains high. You may also remember that Margulis “handled” (i.e., allowing it to be published despite dissenting referees) the Williamson paper positing a hybrid origin of the lepidopteran life cycle (caterpillar then adult) through mating of an ancestral volant butterfly with a velvet worm. (The paper was subsequently debunked.)
He was inspired to write by this Discover magazine Q & A with Margulis
AMHERST – World renowned evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis never stopped thinking about science, right up to her untimely death Tuesday at the age of 73.
Two weeks ago, in fact, colleagues say the professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst was abuzz about an organism she had found in Puffer’s Pond not far from campus.
“She thought it was special and was going to follow up on it right away,” recalled Steve Goodwin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UMass Amherst. “That was her. She was always looking for the next new thing.”
Margulis died at her home in Amherst following complications from a stroke last week.