Henry Fairfield Osborn

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Henry Fairfield Osborn, Sr.
BirthplaceFairfield, Connecticut
Known for geology. paleontology. eugenics

Osborn, Henry Fairfield


Born Aug. 8, 1857, in Fair-field, Conn., died Nov. 6, 1935, in Garrison, N. Y. American paleontologist. Professor at Princeton University (1882–90) and Columbia University (1891). President of the American Museum of Natural History (from 1908).

Osborn’s principal works dealt with terrestrial vertebrate fossils, predominantly mammals, including Perissodactyla, Brontotheriidae, and Proboscidea, and with the history of the theory of evolution. Osborn developed an eclectic concept of evolution, acknowledging the direct influence of the environment on the organism (Buffon’s factor), inheritance of the results of the use (or nonuse) of organs (Lamarck’s factor), and natural selection (Darwin’s factor). He also believed that autogenetic changes could occur in genetic material.


Davitashvili, L. Sh. Istoriia evoliutsionnoi paleontologii ot Darvina do nashikh dnei. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Istoriia evoliutsionnykh uchenii v biologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
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References in periodicals archive ?
His boss, Henry Fairfield Osborn, then director of the American Museum of Natural History, believed that the fossil remains of man's earliest ancestors would inevitably be found in Central Asia.
In his 1906 paper describing Tyrannosaurus Rex, palaeontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn suggested that the five-ton dinosaurs used their minuscule arms for "grasping during copulation".
He was the son of Henry Fairfield Osborn (18571935), a leading paleontologist and for many years administrator of the American Museum of Natural History.
Henry Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History was one of the leading proponents of scientific racism and eugenics in the United States in the early part of the century.
Fairfield Osborn's father, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and his first cousin, Frederick Osborn, were among the most prominent American eugenicists of the last century; Fairfield apparently absorbed his love of nature and his sense of stewardship over natural resources from his paleontologist father.
As Henry Fairfield Osborn wrote of Darwin's visit to the Galapogos Islands: "Only five weeks, but five weeks of Darwin's eyes and Darwin's powers of observation and reasoning were equivalent to a whole previous cycle of human thought."
He reported this to Henry Fairfield Osborn, then a curator (and later president) of the museum, and showed Osborn one of his own mounts of a cat skeleton.