Influential people

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Louis Agassiz

 

Louis Agassiz (1807 - 1873)

Wthin the fossil world, Agassiz is known for his work on glacier activity and extinct fish, in particular from USA and Brazil. He left his native Switzeralnd to study Zoology and later became a professor of zoology and biology at Harvard University where he founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 1836, Louis was awarded the ‘Wollaston Medal’ for his outstanding work on fossil ichthyology by the ‘Geological Society of London’.

 

 

Luis Alvarez

Luis Alvarez (1911-1988)

Alvarez was a physicist rather than a Paleontologist, yet he contributed extensively to the understanding of the end of the existence of dinosaurs. Being a Physicist didn't stop him from theorizing about a meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and then (with his son, Walter) discovering actual evidence for the actual impact crater on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, in the form of scattered remnants of the element iridium. He is most widely known for the theory that dinasaurs were killed by an asteroid impact.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968.

His son Walter (a Geologist), discovered a thin layer of clay while working in Italy, which was a boundary between strata in a gorge. He told his father that the layer marked where the dinosaurs and much else became extinct and that nobody knew why, or what the clay was about — it was a big mystery and he intended to solve it.

 

Mary Anning

Mary Anning (1799-1847)

Mary Anning was a fossil hunter who lived in Dorset and discovered fossils from the Jurassic period. She recovered the remains of two marine reptiles an Ichthyosauraus otherwise known as “fish lizard” and a Plesiosauraus in 1927, as well as the first Pterosaur (a flying reptile).

Unfortunately at the time she was not recognised or given credit for her contributions to the development of Paleontology because she was a woman from a poor background; most of the scientists in those days were men from wealthy backgrounds.

 

Barnum Brown

 

Barnum Brown (1873-1963)

Brown made his name early in the 20th century as the chief fossil hunter, employed by New York's American Museum of Natural History.

In 1902 he led an expedition to the Hell Creek Formation in South East Montana where he discovered and excavated the first documented remains of Tyrannosaurus rex. This was not the first such specimen to be dug up; in fact it was Cope who found the first two vertebrates in 1892.

Brown was known to collect or obtain anything that he thought might be of possible scientific value. In 1910 his team uncovered several hind feet from a group of Albertosaurus which had been forgotten on site; this was to become one of their most significant finds. The site of these bones was later relocated using an old photograph as a guide, and it was reopened for excavation in 1998.

 

 

Edwin Colbert

Edwin Colbert (1905-2001)

Colbert made his most influential discovery in Antarctica: a skeleton of the mammal-like reptile Lystorosaurus which proved that Africa and the southern continent used to be joined in one gigantic land mass. Since then, the theory of continental drift has done much to advance our understanding of dinosaur evolution; for example, we now know that the first dinosaurs evolved in the region of the supercontinent Pangea corresponding to modern-day South America, and then spread to the rest of the world's continents over the next few million years.

He found thousands of fossils, discovering at least 50 new species and at least ten new genera including Ankylosaurus, Corythosaurus, Leptoceratops, Saurolophus and Staurikosaurus.

 

 

Edward Drinker Cope

Edwin Drinker Cope (1840-1897)

Edward Drinker Cope led the revival of Lamarckian evolutionary theory which held that characteristics aquired during life could be passed on to offspring. This is different from the idea of Natural Selection.

Most of his research was on the discovery and description of extinct fishes, reptiles, and mammals of the western United States, from Texas to Wyoming. He worked out the evolutionary histories of the horse and of mammalian teeth. Cope is most noted for his invaluable contribution to knowledge of the vertebrates that flourished between the extinction of the dinosaurs (65.5 million years ago) and the rise of man (2.6 million years ago).

He discovered and named approximately a thousand species of extinct vertebrates in the United States and wrote over 600 papers. When Cope and Marsh began their research, only 18 dinosaur species were known to North America. Between the two of them, they named over 130 dinosaur species. In 1877, he bought The American Naturalist Journal, in order to better disseminate his work.

 

Othniel Marsh

Othniel Marsh (1831-1899)

Othniel Marsh was an American Paleontologist who, together with other fossil hunters, discovered over 500 new species. Amongst others he uncovered the first Pterosaur found in America. He also found early horses, flying reptiles, Cretaceous and Jurassic dinosaurs such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Apotosaurus and Allosaurus and he described toothed birds. Today however he's best remembered for his role in the Bone Wars and his enduring feud with Edward Drinker Cope.

Thanks to this rivalry, Marsh and Cope discovered and named many more dinosaurs than would have been the case if they'd managed to coexist peacefully, greatly advancing our knowledge of this extinct breed.