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Andrews, Roy Chapman, 1884-1960




Roy Chapman Andrews was an explorer, paleontologist, and a well-known figure at the American Museum of Natural History.

1884 January 26
Born in Beloit, Wisconsin
Began employment at the American Museum of Natural History
Assistant in Department of Mammalogy and Ornithology
Alaskan Expedition
Canadian Field trip
Philippine Expedition
Became Assistant in Department of Mammalogy
Japanese Whaling Expedition
Assistant Curator of Mammalogy
Andrews Whaling Expedition to Korea, Japan, Korea
Borden Expedition
Graduated Columbia University with MA in Mammalogy
Married Yvette Borup
First Asiatic Zoological Expedition, China
Son George Borup Andrews born
Assistant Curator of Mammals Eastern Hemisphere
Second Asiatic Zoological Expedition, Mongolia
Third (Central) Asiatic Expedition, Mongolia
Curator in chief of Division IV, Asiatic Exploration and Research (Title Changed to Curator in Department of Asiatic Exploration and Research)
Son Roy Kevin Andrews born
Given honorary Sc.D. From Brown University
Given honorary Sc.D. From Beloit College
Divorced Yvette Borup
Vice-Director in Charge of Exploration and Research in the Administrative and Scientific Branches of the Museum
1934 March - 1934 December
Acting Director of the Museum
Married Wilhelmina Christmas
Director of the Museum
1941 December 31
Resigned as Director of the American Museum of Natural History
1960 March 11
Died in Carmel, California

Biographical Note

Roy Chapman Andrews was born in Beloit, Wisconsin on January 26, 1884 to Cora Chapman and Charles Ezra Andrews, he enjoyed hunting and the study of nature. He taught himself taxidermy and, being the only taxidermist in the Beloit area, provided preparation and mounting services for local hunters. (1) After graduating from Beloit College in 1906 with a B.A., Andrews sought a career at AMNH, but there were no positions available. He volunteered to work at the museum as a janitor and assistant to James L. Clark and was hired July 16, 1906. His taxidermy skills were quickly recognized and by 1908 he was able to convince the AMNH director, H.C. Bumpus to allow him to collect specimens in the field. (2)

From 1910 to 1914 Chapman went on expeditions to Alaska, Japan and Korea, including an expedition from 1909-1910 as a Special Naturalist on the U.S.S. Albatross on a voyage to Dutch East Indies, Borneo, and Celebes. From 1911 to 1917 he was the assistant curator of Mammalogy and during that time he continued his education at Columbia University. Andrews earned his Master of Arts in Mammalogy in 1913. That year he was also member of the Borden Alaska Expedition as leader and photographer. From 1918 to 1923 he became the assistant curator of Mammals Eastern Hemisphere.

Andrews’ is most famous for his three Asiatic Zoological Expeditions. In both 1916 and 1918 he led short scientific collecting expeditions into regions of China and the Gobi Desert. These would prove to be preparatory for the third and largest expedition which occurred from 1921 to 1930 and explored the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China in depth. The name was changed in 1926 to the Central Asiatic Expeditions, and this name is generally used collectively for all Andrews’ Asiatic work. During this time he was appointed Curator-in-chief of Division IV, Asiatic Explorations and Research (the title changed to Curator in Dept. of Asiatic Exploration and Research). These expeditions produced major discoveries, including skeletons of the extinct rhinoceros Indricotherium (originally named Baluchitherium), the oldest and largest land mammals known at that time; and the first recognized finding of dinosaur eggs. (3) Andrews' first wife, Yvette Borup, traveled with him and photographed many of his early expeditions. In 1931 Andrews was named Vice-Director in charge of Exploration and research in the Administrative and Scientific branches of the Museum. In March 1934, when his friend and colleague Dr. Sherwood became ill and could no longer continue as director for the Museum, Andrews was named Acting Director. The title was officially changed to Director of the museum in 1935. Andrews served as the director until his resignation in 1941.

Along with his travels, Chapman gave hundreds for lectures, was the member of numerous scientific societies, and was presented with several awards for his achievements in the scientific community. September 5, 1935 Chapman was awarded the first significant Sig Medal ever awarded by Sigma Chi Fraternity. That same year on November 26th he was awarded the Charles P. Daly Medal for the year 1935 by the American Geographical Society. Chapman wrote several books including two autobiographies “Under a Lucky Star” and “An Explorer Comes Home” and many articles. Andrews married Yvette Borup in 1914. With Yvette he had two sons, George Borup and Roy Kevin. They divorced in 1931 and Chapman remarried to Wilhelmina “Billie” Christmas February 21, 1935. Chapman died March 11, 1960 in Carmel, California.


(1) Charles Gallenkamp, Dragon Hunter: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic Expeditions. (New York: Viking, 2001), 8

(2) Roy Chapman Andrews, Under a lucky star, a lifetime of adventure. (New York: The Viking Press, 1943).

(3) D.R. Barton, "Gambler on the Gobi: The Story of Roy Chapman Andrews," Natural History 45, No. 2 (1940): 120.


Found in 27 Collections and/or Records:

Central Asiatic Expeditions : maps, staff and transportation

Identifier: Film Collection no. 148
Scope and Contents Filmed during the AMNH Third Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. The film opens with animated maps tracing the routes of the expeditions. Members of the expedition staff are introduced as they work in the field: Roy Chapman Andrews, leader; Walter Granger, chief paleontologist; Albert Thomson, assistant paleontologist; Leslie Erskine Spock, geologist; Alonzo W. Pond, archaeologist; and Captain W. P. T. Hill, topographer. The next segment shows the problems the expedition...
Dates: 1922-1928

The Central Asiatic Expeditions : Peking

Identifier: Film Collection no. 150
Scope and Contents Filmed during the AMNH Third Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. Film brought from the U.S. was intended for recording the expedition, but some precious film was used to photograph Peking (now Beijing), the site of the expedition's headquarters. Because of the need to conserve film, this film is choppy, but provides a record of the city in the 1920s. The varied modes of transport are shown: trolleys, ox carts, sedan chairs, rickshaws, camels, wheelbarrows, horsedrawn...
Dates: 1922-1928

Central Asiatic Expeditions records

Identifier: Mss .C446
Scope and Contents This collection is a record of the Museum’s explorations undertaken during the 1920s in the Gobi Desert under the leadership of Roy Chapman Andrews. A list of the men who participated in the CAE can be culled from the expeditions’ letterheads used by museum personnel in New York. All but three of the men cited on these letterheads are represented here. Those not found are Mont Reid, a physician, James Wang, an interpreter and G. Horwath of motor transport. The variety of other correspondents...
Dates: 1916-1940; Majority of material found within 1921-1933

American Museum of Natural History, Department of Preparation and Installation: Diorama and Hall construction

Identifier: DR 104
Scope and Content Note This collection spans the planning and development of the Department of Preparations for the dioramas of the various halls. These folders detail the requests and expenditures for the efforts made in travel, models, and sketches. The majority of the correspondence is directed from or to James L. Clark, the Director of the Department of Preparations between the 1930’s-1940’s. Much of the correspondence from James Lippit Clark, is directed to trackers, guides, taxidermists, donors, and...
Dates: 1919-1962

William King Gregory papers, 1889-1948 (bulk 1906-1948)

Identifier: Mss .G7441
Scope and Contents The collection consists of administrative, scientific, academic and personal papers, and correspondence. Papers include Gregory's general correspondence with universities, colleges and scientists about his research topics and publications; correspondence with museums about purchasing replicas of fossils; and with students seeking employement. Other papers include lecture notes prepared for zoology classes emphasizing evolution, 1925-1926 and 1939; and manuscripts and notes for his...
Dates: 1889-1948; Majority of material found within 1906-1948


Identifier: Film Collection no. 200
Scope and Contents Filmed during the AMNH Andrews Korean Whaling Expedition, 1912. Roy Chapman Andrews, assistant curator in the Department of Mammalogy and Ornithology, went to Korea in 1912 to collect various species of whales. Although he took a lot of motion picture footage, this little film is all that remains. Shown at first are Keijo (now Seoul), then under Japanese rule and called Chosen, and its surrounding hills, the South Gate (for which the city was named), trolleys, and bullock carts. Koreans in...
Dates: 1912

William J. Morden papers

Identifier: Mss .M671-.M674
Scope and Contents This collection is concerned with Morden’s expeditions to Alaska, Central Asia, and Southwest Africa and contains detailed field notes written by both William and Irene. The field notes include details of their travels, supply lists, budgets, and descriptions of artifacts and specimens gathered. There are also a number of drafts of articles and books written by both Morden and Irene about their experiences abroad. The William J. Morden papers also include correspondences which are...
Dates: 1922-1957