Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935

Alternative names
Birth 1857-08-08
Death 1935-11-06
English, French

Biographical notes:

Paleontologist, professor of biology at Columbia University, President of Trustees 1908-1933, American Museum of Natural History vertebrate paleontologist.

From the description of Henry Fairfield Osborn letter to W. Orton Tewson [manuscript], 1925 April 14. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 213468939

Henry Fairfield Osborn was a member of the Princeton class of 1877, one of the earliest graduates of the School of Science. He returned to Princeton in 1883 after graduate study as a professor of comparative anatomy, where he distinguished himself as one of the foremost scholars in biology and paleontology in America. During this time Osborn also assisted in the administration of the college, balancing accounts and reorganizing the athletics program. He left Princeton in 1890 to take an appointment at Columbia, and later was president of the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

From the description of Henry Fairfield Osborn papers, 1889-1890. (Peking University Library). WorldCat record id: 74216481

Epithet: President The American Museum of Natural History New York

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001035.0x0000f5

Vertebrate paleontologist.

Osborn was President of the American Museum of Natural History, 1908-1933.

From the description of Papers, 1901-1942, 1901-1937 (bulk) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155509859

Vertebrate paleontologist.

Osborn was President of the American Museum of Natural History, 1908-1933.

From the description of Manuscript drafts and collected notes, 1872-1933. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155509850

Henry Fairfield Osborn graduated at Princeton in 1877 and pursued his interest in the biological sciences and paleontology through additional study at several New York City medical schools and with Thomas Henry Huxley in Britain. Returning to the United States, Osborn accepted a position at Princeton, teaching natural sciences from 1881 until 1891, when he moved to Columbia University to organize the Biology Department there, and in 1891, he also helped to organize the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. Osborn's close association with the American Museum continued for over 45 years, and included a long tenure as its President, 1908-1933. During these years the museum's collections expanded enormously and it became one of the preeminent research institutions for natural history in the world. Apart from his own research, Osborn is perhaps best remembered for the sponsorship of the five immensely successful Central Asiatic Expeditions during the 1920's and 30's led by Roy Chapman Andrews.

William Berryman Scott (1858-1947), a fellow Princetonian, was among the more important American vertebrate paleontologists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Like Osborn, Scott traveled to Europe after his graduation to continue his education, landing at Heidelberg, where he took specialized course work in embryology and paleontology, and also like Osborn, Scott returned to his alma mater to teach, working at Princeton for the remainder of his career.

From the guide to the Henry Fairfield Osborn papers, Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1879-1885, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Vertebrates--Evolution
  • Paleontologists
  • Paleontology--Pleistocene--Exhibitions
  • Mammals, Fossil--Evolution
  • Sports facilities
  • Dinosaurs
  • Reptiles, Fossil
  • Paleontology--Fieldwork
  • Zoological illustration
  • Paleontology--Collectors and collecting
  • Evolution
  • Paleontology--Classification
  • Scientific expeditions
  • Horses
  • Reptiles
  • Horses, Fossil
  • Prehistoric peoples--Exhibitions
  • College students--Germany
  • College sports--Finance--19th century
  • Saurischia
  • Phylogeny
  • Paleontology--Research
  • Lampreys
  • Vertebrates, Fossil
  • Crocodilians


  • Paleontologists


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  • Liverpool, England (as recorded)
  • Russia. (as recorded)
  • Colorado. (as recorded)
  • Colorado (as recorded)
  • New Jersey--Princeton (as recorded)
  • Wyoming (as recorded)