Henry Fairfield Osborn –  Born this day in 1857

Today, the eighth of August, marks the anniversary of the birthday of Henry Fairfield Osborn, American palaeontologist, geologist and researcher into eugenics.  In a distinguished scientific career, Osborn did much to promote the public’s awareness of Earth sciences and his influence on how museums display specimens can still be seen today.  As President of the American Museum of Natural History (New York), he helped that institute to amass one of the finest fossil collections in the world.  Perhaps Osborn is most remembered for his naming and describing of Tyrannosaurus rex, a dinosaur so nearly called Dynamosaurus, only the order of precedence in the original paper prevented T. rex as we know it today being called by this different and less imaginative name.

Osborn helped popularise the concept of adaptive radiation, that primitive organisms might evolve into several species by spreading over a large area and adapting to different and diverse ecological niches.  Although some of his work on eugenics would today be viewed as highly controversial, Osborn did much to help the concept of natural history museums to develop.  He published a number of notable papers and doctrines, including several on the evolution of Proboscidea (animals with trunks, such as the elephants).

He died in 1935 but remains on the most important figures in the history of American palaeontology.

Many happy returns Henry.

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