Osborn, Henry Fairfield

Osborn, Henry Fairfield,

1857–1935, American paleontologist and geologist, b. Fairfield, Conn. He was professor of comparative anatomy (1883–90) at Princeton, and professor of biology (1891–96) and of zoology (1896–1910) at Columbia, where he was also dean of the faculty of pure science (1892–95). From 1891 he was associated with the American Museum of Natural History and formed one of the world's foremost collections of vertebrate fossils. Under his presidency (1908–33) the museum's scientific staff, facilities, and endowments were greatly expanded. He joined the U.S. Geological Survey as vertebrate paleontologist in 1900 and became (1924) senior geologist. His voluminous writings include general works on evolution and over 500 technical papers on paleontology.

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.

Osborn, Henry Fairfield

(1857–1935) paleontologist, educator; born in Fairfield, Conn. He taught natural sciences at Princeton (1881–91) and biology at Columbia University (1891–1907). In 1891 he organized the department of mammalian paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. As the museum's president (1908–35), he developed it into the world's largest natural history museum. His bibliography includes more than 600 scientific titles, most notably on reptilian and mammalian evolution; he is credited with originating the term "adaptive radiation."
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