Mr. Bones

On February 12, 1873, American paleontologist Barnum Brown was born. Yes, he was named after travelling circus impresario P.T. Barnum. Brown spent a Kansas childhood collecting upturned seashells and corals from the field plows, captivated by buried fossils. He trained as a geologist and sharpened his sense for rock layers that would likely produce the best yield for the look of a fossil bone yard.

Brown started off as a field assistant assessing and collecting fossils for his employer, New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. He was successful in returning field trip after field trip with bones of interest, introducing the use of plaster of Paris to preserve artifacts in the excavation of fossils.

In Wyoming, Brown discovered his first example (of five) of Tyrannosaurus Rex. In Alberta, he discovered Albertosaurus. He found the best sites and the basic bones that provided the first good look at the dinosaurs of North America. Brown found prehistoric meat-eating or plant-eating dinosaur bones on sites around the world – Patagonia, Greece, Turkey, Ethiopia, India.

He became the curator of the museum’s Department of Vertebrate Paleontology. When he wrote up a scientific report or paper, his writing style was vigorous and his analysis skilled and well-crafted. However, he was so busy working the world’s bone fields, his publications were minimal and he left the reporting to his colleagues at the museum. Then again, perhaps he inspired more future paleontologists with his own CBS radio show.

Thanks to Brown’s amazing contribution, the mammal fossil collection at the American Museum of Natural History is the largest of its kind, housing hundreds of thousands of specimens that include thousand of examples of extinct animal life.


B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage

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