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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:

Chester Reeds papers

Identifier: MSS .R44

2 boxes containing 52 folders of correspondence, typescript, handwritten notes, and printed images (maps, illustrations, etc.), most of which relates to the September-October 1926 issue of Natural History entitled The Romance of Fossil Hunting.

Dates: 1924-1930; Majority of material found in 1926

Roy Chapman Andrews (1884-1960) / LR "Charles Arthur Rose"

 Item — Object: 1
Identifier: Art Survey No. 235
Scope and Contents

Roy Chapman Andrews in suit standing with hands in suit pockets, wearing glasses. Andrews was Museum Director from 1935 to 1941, naturalist, explorer, author, known for his expeditions to Asia. Frame: Gilt wood, gesso, laurel design.

Dates: 1937

Roy Chapman Andrews field photographs

Identifier: PPC .A63
Scope and Contents

Personal collection of prints including fiber-based prints of Roy Chapman Andrews holding dinosaur eggs (negative numbers 108049 and 18050). Five envelopes of prints, miscellaneous content including prints from Correia's negatives, antelope running in Mongolia and various other animals.

Dates: 1923

Roy Chapman Andrews Public relations photographs

Identifier: PPC .A631
Scope and Contents

Publicity and press photographs of Roy Chapman Andrews, including his family and friends. Contains some newsclippings describing the career of Roy Chapman Andrews.

Dates: 1921-1936

Series 2: Professional Correspondence, 1896 - 1942

Scope and Contents

The professional correspondence includes letters between Brown and other paleontologists both within AMNH and elsewhere. It also contains correspondence regarding Brown's lecture tours and his application for copyright. There are also some letters from the public with paleontological enquiries.

Dates: 1896 - 1942

The Central Asiatic Expeditions : Mongols

Identifier: Film Collection no. 149
Scope and Contents China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. The first sequence concentrates on daily life in a Mongol camp near Tsagan Nor (or White Lake). The camp is a complex of Mongolian tents (yurts) with men, sheep, and dogs milling about; yaks pull heavy logs; and a camel is being trained. The film moves to Urga (now Ulan Bator) where Khalka women with elaborate headresses are seen; a Mongol affected with gigantism enters the city and is photographed with Roy Chapman Andrews. The film then shifts back to the...
Dates: 1922-1925

W. Douglas Burden papers

Identifier: Mss .B87
Dates: 1920-1978 (bulk 1926-1961)