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Gregory, William K. (William King), 1876-1970


Biographical Note

William King Gregory (1876-1970) held many positions at the American Museum of Natural History before retiring on May 19, 1944 and becoming Curator Emeritus in two departments: the Department of Living and Extinct Fishes and the Department of Comparative and Human Anatomy. He officially began at the American Museum of Natural History in 1911 as an Assistant in Paleontology after studying zoology and vertebrate paleontology under Henry Fairfield Osborn while attending Columbia University. He worked as Osborn’s Research Assistant at Columbia University from 1899-1913. In 1912, Gregory became Assistant Curator at the American Museum of Natural History and held this position until 1921, when he became Curator of both the Department of Living and Extinct Fishes and the Department of Comparative and Human Anatomy. While in the position of Curator, he became a Research Associate in Paleontology from 1927 to 1930. During this time, Gregory was also a Professor of Zoology at Columbia University, where he began teaching in 1916.

With specialties in anatomy, phylogeny, vertebrate evolution, and mammalian dentition, Gregory published extensively. During his academic career, he developed the principle of habitus and heritage. This principle theorized that animals evolved with two types of characteristics. There was heritage, which derived from evolutionary histories, and habitus, which were adaptations to the environment. Later, he expanded his habitus and heritage theory to include his palimpsest theory, which proposed that the habitus features often shrouded the heritage features.

Selected Bibliography

Akeley, Mary L. Jobe, and William K Gregory. Congo Eden: A Comprehensive Portrayal of the Historical Background and Scientific Aspects of the Great Game Sanctuaries of the Belgian Congo with the Story of a Six Months Pilgrimage Throughout That Most Primitive Region in the Heart of the African Continent. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1950.

Gregory, William K. Biographical Memoir of Henry Fairfield Osborn, 1857-1935. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1938.

Gregory, William K. Evolution Emerging (Natural Sciences in America). New York: Arno Press, 1974.

Gregory, William K, Henry Cushier Raven, and Henry Cushier Raven. In Quest of Gorillas. New Bedford Mass: Darwin Press, 1937.

Gregory, William K. Man's Place among the Anthropoids: Three Lectures on the Evolution of Man from the Lower Vertebrates. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934.

Gregory, William K. Our Face from Fish to Man: A Portrait Gallery of Our Ancient Ancestors and Kinsfolk Together with a Concise History of Our Best Features. New York: Capricorn Books, 1965.


William King Gregory, Wikipedia.

Found in 11 Collections and/or Records:

Bashford Dean papers

Identifier: Mss .D433-.D434

Bashford Dean (1867-1928) was a teacher, ichthyologist, and armor scholar. As curator, he headed emergent departments at the American Museum of Natural History (Reptiles and Fishes, 1903-1910) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (curator, Arms and Armor, 1904-1912) in New York City. The Bashford Dean Papers primarily consists of correspondence and sketchbooks.

Dates: 1888-1961 and unknown; Majority of material found within 1901-1902

Department of Comparative Anatomy records

Identifier: DR 152
Scope and Contents

Records from the Department of Comparative Anatomy including budgets and annual reports, personnel files, Arthur James lecture programs, correspondence and documents belonging to assistant curator George Miles Conrad, and curator William K. Gregory, history of the Department, departmental documents and reports of the projects with the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Dates: 1900-1947

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

Field photographs of Gregory-Raven Expedition to Australia

Identifier: PPC .G75
Scope and Contents

The purpose of this expedition was to collect rapidly disappearing mammals from Australia and Tasmania. These photos document some of the indigenous mammals found there.

Dates: 1921

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

Notebooks : [microform]

Identifier: Archives Microfilm #30

Henry Cushier Raven papers

Identifier: Mss .R38
Scope and Contents The items in this collection reflect much of Henry Cushier Raven’s species data research from approximately 1920-1944. The collection consists of handwritten and typed notes and research; hand-drawn illustrations of animals and their dissections; photographs of specimens and expedition sites; and manuscript drafts associated with his various essays, articles, and scholarly publications. Research and illustrations on various whale species, land mammals, and Raven’s data from his Australia/...
Dates: circa 1912-1944; Majority of material found within 1920-1944

Series 1: Correspondence , 1892-1947

Scope and Contents

Series 1 (Boxes 1 to 6) contain Osborn’s correspondence, both general and relating to specific publications including “Age of Mammals” 2nd edition, “Ape Man,” and “Men of the Old Stone Age.” This series also contains accession information for the entire Henry Fairfield Osborn Papers collection. Most materials are in English, but there is also some correspondence in German. It is arranged alphabetically and thematically, then chronologically.

Dates: 1892-1947

Series 2: Published Papers & Unpublished Manuscripts, 1870 - 1945

Scope and Contents Series 2 (Boxes 6 to 21) contains materials related to Osborn’s published papers, articles, and unpublished manuscripts, including substantial works like “Age of Mammals” and his Titanotheres monograph, as well as other writings on horses, Proboscidea, evolution, fauna, flora, vertebrate paleontology, and other subjects. Materials include notes, addresses given or written by Osborn, revisions, correspondence, illustrations, photographs, notebooks, and more. It is arranged alphabetically,...
Dates: 1870 - 1945

Series 4: Writing, 1897 - 1968

Scope and Contents

This series consist of 2 sub-series. The first contains writing about Barnum Brown and the second contains writing by Barnum Brown.

Dates: 1897 - 1968