ous handiwork of God … ‘just happen’ as a consequence of causes operating at a lower level among struggling individuals,” Gould asserted.19


In a way, Darwin’s Origin of Species represents the third work in a trilogy summarizing the scientific understanding of the world at the end of the 19th century. Just as Newton had tamed the physical world in the 17th century, and Smith had codified economics in the 18th, Charles Darwin in the 19th century added life to the list. Where Smith followed in Newton’s footsteps, Darwin followed in Smith’s. So by the end of the 19th century, the groundwork was laid for a comprehensive rational understanding of just about everything.

Oddly, it seems, the 20th century produced no such book of similar impact and fame.20 No volume arrived, for instance, to articulate the long-sought Code of Nature. But one book that appeared in midcentury may someday be remembered as the first significant step toward such a comprehensive handbook of human social behavior: Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement