Leidy, Joseph

Leidy, Joseph

(lī`dē), 1823–91, American scientist, b. Philadelphia, grad. Univ. of Pennsylvania medical school. From 1853 he taught anatomy at his alma mater. He was also professor of natural history at Swarthmore College (1870–85) and served as chairman of the board of curators (1847–91) and president (1881–91) of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He ranked among the foremost anatomists of the day, and his Elementary Treatise on Human Anatomy (1861) was long the best American textbook in the field. He studied the fossil beds in Nebraska and South Dakota and, later, in Wyoming and Oregon and classified the fossils collected by the F. V. Hayden survey. Three important monographs followed, Ancient Fauna of Nebraska (1853), Extinct Mammalian Fauna of Dakota and Nebraska (1869), and Contributions to the Extinct Vertebrate Fauna of the Western Territories (1873), all landmarks in American paleontology. He was the first to identify in the United States extinct species of the horse, camel, sloth, tiger, rhinoceros, and many other genera and species. His Flora and Fauna within Living Animals (1853) was epoch-making in the field of parasitology, and his Fresh Water Rhizopods of North America (1879), with his own notable drawings, is still one of the finest works in its field.


See biography by W. S. W. Rauschenberger (1892).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Leidy, Joseph


Born Sept. 9, 1823, in Philadelphia; died there Apr. 30, 1891. American biologist. Professor of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania (from 1853).

Leidy’s main works dealt with paleontology, zoology, comparative anatomy, and botany. His studies on reptiles of the Cretaceous and mammals of the Paleogene in North America are very well known. He elucidated the origin and history of development of several animal groups.


Cretaceous Reptiles of the United States. Washington, 1865.
Researches in Helminthology and Parasitology. Washington, 1904.


Davitashvili, L. Sh. Istoriia evoliutsionnoi paleontologii ot Darvina do nashikh dnei. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Leidy, Joseph

(1823–91) zoologist, paleontologist; born in Philadelphia. He was a trained medical doctor and professor of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania (1853–91). A scientist of unusual range, Leidy published a classic anatomical text and important works on parasitology and protozoa. In addition he is regarded (along with Edward Drinker Cope and O. C. Marsh) as a founder of American vertebrate paleontology; dismayed by his colleagues' contentiousness, however, he abandoned that field after publishing his major work, "The Extinct Mammalian Fauna of Dakota and Nebraska" (1869).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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