MacArthur Fellows Program

Geerat J. Vermeij

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist | Class of 1992

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist
Davis, California
46 at time of award
Published July 1, 1992

About Geerat's Work

Geerat Vermeij is a scientist who has developed an influential research program based upon the long-term evolutionary interaction between predators and their prey.

In his work, Vermeij has effectively defended a Darwinian view of competition and other biological factors.  Blind since the age of three, he uses touch rather than sight as his guide.  He has made lasting discoveries about the form and function in the molluscan shell and about the structure and the biogeographic distribution of invertebrate reef communities.  His studies of faunal interchanges and the historical biogeography of higher latitudes give evidence of the important role of environment in determining biotic diversity.  He is the author of Biogeography and Adaptation: Patterns of Marine Life (1978), Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life (1987), A Natural History of Shells (1993), Privileged Hands: A Scientific Life (1996), and Nature: An Economic History (2004).


Vermeij is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of California, Davis.  In addition to his five books, he has authored over 160 papers that have appeared in such journals as Paleobiology, Science, and the American Naturalist.

Vermeij received an A.B. (1968) from Princeton University and an M.Ph. (1970) and Ph.D. (1971) from Yale University.

Recent News

Geerat Vermeij continues to serve as a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (formerly Department of Geology) at the University of California, Davis. In 2010, he published his sixth book, The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization, and he has now published more than 230 papers. Vermeej’s current interests include parallels between natural and human economics, the evolution of large body size in organisms, and limits to the phenotypic diversity that evolution has produced over the course of life’s history. He also publishes papers on molluscan taxonomy and is planning work on the functional morphology of plant leaves.

Updated July 2015

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