Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935
- Existence: 1857-08-08 - 1935-11-06
Henry Fairfield Osborn was a paleontologist, museum curator and administrator at the American Museum of Natural History. His 45-year career at the museum established it as a leading institution of research and scholarship in the fields of paleontology and evolution. Osborn's interest in paleontology, atypically for his time, derived as much from biology as from geology; in his undergraduate and graduate studies, he concentrated on biology, anatomy, embryology and neurology. In 1891, Osborn began his tenure at the AMNH by organizing and heading the new department of mammalian paleontology, while simultaneously accepting a similar position in biology at Columbia University. The AMNH department, which was eventually renamed vertebrate paleontology, was definitive in the museum's research and mission: the study and teaching of evolution. Osborn began his administrative work in 1899, becoming president in 1908, a position he held for twenty-five years. His strength was in leadership and education rather than empirical science; under his guidance, the museum expanded greatly in physical space and endowment, scientific staff, research and public education. Like his predecessor Albert S. Bickmore, Osborn recognized the need to combine information with entertainment. He popularized paleontology by ensuring that the museum's exhibits did not merely display the researchers' work, but also explained it in an attractive and accessible manner. Osborn, like so many of his contemporaries, was a prolific writer. His attempt to research and publish a definitive record of all the fossil mammals of North America was wildly overambitious, but by the time of his death he had completed substantial works on Equidae, titanotheres, rhinoceroses and Proboscidea, as well as on sauropod dinosaurs; his total publications number 940 (books, monographs, articles and papers), about half devoted to vertebrate paleontology.
Citation:From biographical note for Osborn's archive collection at the AMNH Library, Mss .O835, written by Ann Herendeen.
Found in 53 Collections and/or Records:
Letters, visiting cards, and clippings from the expedition mounted on scrapbook pages. Many letters are addressed to Henry Fairfield Osborn and Bashford Dean.
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.
Consist of diaries, lists of specimens found, locations of finds, records of day to day activities, and step by step findings. Individual lists can be found with both the Charles H. Falkenbach and Ted Galusha Papers. The diaries are arranged by date and filed as nearly as possible in chronological order. Notable names in the field diaries include H. F. Osborn, Walter Granger, Barnum Brown, and G. G. Simpson.
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.
Series 3 (Boxes 22 to 24) contains memorabilia related to Osborn, including a photo album of students from Princeton, Columbia University, and the American Museum of Natural History, an illustrated text composed by Christina D. Matthew and Elisabeth M. Fulda, obituaries, biographies, and other materials. Most of the materials are in English, with some German- and Italian-language materials, as well. It is arranged chronologically.
Series 4 (Boxes 24 to 27) contain several of Osborn’s bibliographies, presented in various formats (bound, index cards, and card file). It is arranged alphabetically and by subject.
Series 5 contains press clippings written by or about Osborn. They are collected mainly from newspapers, but also include clippings from other periodicals. It is arranged chronologically.