Henry Fairfield Osborn

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Henry Fairfield Osborn
Photo from 1919
BornAugust 8, 1857
DiedNovember 6, 1935
Alma materPrinceton University
Known forGeology, paleontology, eugenics

Henry Fairfield Osborn, Sr. FRS (August 8, 1857 – November 6, 1935) was an American paleontologist, and geologist. He was the president of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years.

Osborn was one of the great dinosaur fossil hunters of the late 19th century, and a eugenist.

Osborn got a Sc.D. in paleontology from Princeton, and was Professor of Comparative Anatomy there from 1883–1890. In 1891, Osborn was hired by Columbia University as a professor of zoology. At the same time, he got a position at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. He served there as the curator of the newly formed Department of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Osborn led the American Museum expedition to Mongolia in 1922–25.

Osborn named and wrote the first descriptions of Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, and many other dinosaurs. The historian Edward J. Larson described Osborn as "a first-rate science administrator and a third-rate scientist."[1] This seems rather an extreme view: some of the problems he faced are still problems today. For example, he studied Struthiomimus, which is a lightweight running dinosaur. Its lifestyle is still not very clear today.

Under his leadership, staff of the American Museum of Natural History worked on displays. The museum became one of the top exhibitions in the early twentieth century. As a result, the murals, habitat dioramas, and dinosaur mounts attracted millions of visitors, and inspired other museums to imitate.[2] His decision to invest heavily in exhibitions angered curators who hoped to spend more time on their own research.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. Larson, Edward J. (2003). "Reviewed Work: Henry Fairfield Osborn: Race and the Search for the Origins of Man Brian Regal". The American Historical Review. 108 (2): 529–530. doi:10.1086/533302.
  2. On the American Museum's habitat dioramas, see http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/dioramas/; Karen Wonders. Habitat Dioramas, (Figura Nova Series 25: Acta Universitatis Uppsaliensis, 1993).
  3. Cain, Victoria 2011. The art of authority: exhibits, exhibit makers and the contest for scientific status at the American Museum of Natural History, 1920–1940. Science in Context 24, (2).