The Panda's Thumb (book)

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The Panda's Thumb
The Panda's Thumb.jpg
AuthorStephen Jay Gould
CountryUnited States
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Publication date
Media typePrint
LC ClassQH361 .G66 1980
Preceded byEver Since Darwin 
Followed byHen's Teeth and Horse's Toes 

The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (1980) is a collection of 31 essays by the Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. It is the second volume culled from his 27-year monthly column "This View of Life" in Natural History magazine. Recurring themes of the essays are evolution and its teaching, science biography, probabilities and common sense.

The title essay (of 1978, originally titled "The panda's peculiar thumb") presents the paradox that poor design is a better argument for evolution than good design, as illustrated by the anatomy of the panda's "thumb"—which is not a thumb at all—but an extension of the radial sesamoid bone. Topics addressed in other essays include the female brain, the Piltdown Man hoax, Down syndrome, and the relationship between dinosaurs and birds.

The Panda's Thumb won the 1981 U.S. National Book Award in Science.[1][a]



  1. ^ This was the 1981 award for hardcover Science.
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Awards history there were dual hardcover and paperback awards in most categories, and multiple nonfiction subcategories. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including the 1981 Science.