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    Paleontology Milestones
    Famous Paleontologists and Notable Contributions

    Famous Paleontologists

    5th century BC: Xenophanes of Colophon (570 - 475 BC), Ancient Greek philosopher: concluded from fossil sea shells that some areas of land were once under water.

    11th century AD: Shen Kuo (10311095), Chinese scientist and statesman: proposed a theory of climate change based on the presence of petrified bamboo in regions that in his time were too dry for bamboo.

    1565: Conrad Gessner (1516 - 1565), Swiss naturalist: one of the first fossil classification efforts - a failed attempt since at Gesner's time a fossil was regarded as any interesting object found in the ground, including items of inorganic origin.

    1665: Athanasius Kircher (1601 - 1680), German Jesuit scholar: he concluded that some fossils were the remains of animals which had turned to stone but on the other hand attributed some giant bones to extinct races of giant humans.

    1666: Nicolas Steno (1686 - 1686), Danish Catholic bishop and geologist: compared the teeth of a caught shark head with a fossil tooth and concluded that the fossilized shark's teeth were actual teeth of ancient sharks. He also proposed that items found in lower strata are older than those in higher strata.

    1801: Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744 - 1829), French naturalist: used fossils in his arguments for his theory of the transmutation of species (evolution).

    1811: Mary Anning (1799 - 1847), British fossil collector and palaeontologist: collected the first ichthyosaur (giant marine reptiles that resembled dolphins) skeleton to be recognized as such and the first two plesiosaur (Mesozoic marine reptiles) skeletons ever found in 1821 and 1823.

    Modern Paleontology Begins

    1815: William Smith (17691839), English geologist: credited with creating the first Britain nationwide geological map and of ordering rock strata (layers) by examining the fossils contained in them.

    1822: Alexandre Brongniart (1770 - 1847), French mineralogist: based on his trilobite (a fossil group of extinct marine arthropods) studies he made pioneering contributions to stratigraphy by developing fossil markers for dating strata.

    1822: Gideon Mantell (1790 - 1852), English geologist and palaeontologist: realized that some large teeth he had found belonged to a giant herbivorous land-dwelling reptile which he named Iguanodon, because the teeth resembled those of an iguana. In 1832 Mantell found, in Tilgate, a partial skeleton of an armoured reptile he called Hylaeosaurus.

    1824: William Buckland (1784 - 1856), English geologist: wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur (a lower jaw from Jurassic deposits) which he determined that it belonged to a carnivorous land-dwelling reptile that he called Megalosaurus.

    1825: Georges Cuvier (1769 - 1832), French naturalist and zoologist: mass extinction and catastrophism theories in geology (Discourse on the Revolutions of the Globe); developed comparative anatomy and paleontology by comparing living animals with fossils.
         1801: Cuvier identified another fossil found in Bavaria as a flying reptile and named it Pterodactylus (Pterosaurs).
         1808: Cuvier identified a fossil found in Maastricht as a giant marine reptile that he named Mosasaurus.

    1837: Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist and geologist: the first to propose that the Earth had been subject to a past ice age; did landmark work on extinct fishes.

    1842: Richard Owen (1804 - 1892), English biologist and paleontologist: created a new order of reptiles, which he called Dinosauria, for Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus genera. Richard Owen also described and identified the first specimen of Archaeopteryx, an animal with both teeth and feathers and a mix of other reptilian and avian features, which was discovered in 1861 in Bavaria.

    1844: Robert Chambers (1802-1871), Scottish geologist and thinker: used fossil evidence in his popular science book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation to exhibit a progression in fossils from simple to more complex organisms and to humans.

    1859: Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882), English biologist and the proponent of the theory of evolution by natural selection: in his On the Origin of Species fossils had played an important role in the development of Darwin's theory.

    1858: Joseph Leidy (1823 - 1891), American paleontologist: described a Hadrosaurus foulkii skeleton, which was the first North American dinosaur to be described from good remains.

    1891: Eugene Dubois (1858 - 1940), Dutch paleoanthropologist: discovered Java Man, the first fossil evidence of a species that seemed clearly intermediate between humans and apes.

    1905: Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857 - 1935), American geologist, paleontologist and president of the American Museum of Natural History: named and described Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex).

    1980: Luis Alvarez (1911 - 1988), American physicist and Nobel laureate: developed (with his son Walter Alvarez) the meteorite theory of dinosaur extinction.

    1980s: Jack Sepkoski (1948 - 1999) and David M. Raup (1933 - ), American paleontologists: published papers with statistical analysis of the fossil record of marine invertebrates that revealed a pattern (possibly cyclical) of repeated mass extinctions with significant implications for the evolutionary history of life.

    Paleontologists - Elementary School Level
    Paleontologists and Dinosaur Hunters - Enchanted Learning

    Paleontologists - Elementary / Middle / High School Level
    Paleontologists - Fact Monster
    Biographies - Strange Science

    Paleontologists - High School Level
    Paleontologist Biographies - UCMP
    Paleontologists - Famous People
    Top Paleontologists Interviewed - Dino Land Website

    Paleontologists - High School / College Level
    Lefalophodon - An Informal History of Evolutionary Biology, John Alroy

    Paleontology Timelines
    Paleontology Timeline - Strange Science

    Paleontology and Paleontologists on Stamps and Images
    Evolution and the Fossil Record - Buffalo University
    Dinosaur Stamps
    Dinosaur Illustrations - David Goldman

    My Dog Kelly

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    Last updated: June 2013
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