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Norman Dennis Newell Collection, 1909-2005 (bulk 1973-2003)

Identifier: Mss .N495

Scope and Contents

These papers consist of Newell’s scientific work at the American Museum of Natural History from 1973-2005, and Columbia University from 1945-1997; and his contributions mentioned below in the individual Series. They also include some personal and family papers dating from his childhood in Kansas through his education at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and Yale University, to his death in 2005.

Series I: Correspondence with Individuals (includes some institutions, where contact was more personal). Includes: Boyd, Cloud, Colbert, Cooper, Fischer, Golden, Gould, Mayr, McKenna, McRoberts, Rigby, Simpson, Stanley, George. Boxes 1-20. Series II: Correspondence with institutions. Includes: American Philosophical Society, Columbia University, Geological Society of America, Kansas University, National Academy of Sciences, United States National Museum, Yale University. Boxes 21-24. Series III: The American Museum of Natural History. Administration, Committees and Eduction, Invertebrate Paleontology Department, Personnel, Norman D. Newell Endowment Fund. Boxes 25-28. Series IV: Foreign travel for research, International Meetings, and field work. Boxes 29-38B. Series V: Travel and field work in North America: Includes meetings, awards, research and Visiting Committees. Boxes 39-42C. Series VI: Personal: CVs, Memoirs, Bibliography, Publicity, Awards, Oral History. MSS A45.073. Box 43 Series VII: Committees (not AMNH). Boxes 43-44. Series VIII: Population/CO2/Environment. Box 44 Series IX: Creation and Evolution. Correspondence and writings. Boxes 45-48. Series X: Miscellaneous manuscripts and talks, early letters and diaries. Boxes 49A-51. Series XI: Collected articles, reprints and handwritten research notes, and Newell publication information. Boxes 52-56. Series XII: Collected reprints by subject. Boxes 57-65. Series XIII: Photographic plates from Newell reprints: Plates were kept when they show better detail than the reprints themselves. Boxes 66-70.


  • 1909-2005 (bulk 1973-2003)


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions pertinent to the collection. Requests to use the collection should be made in advance to Library Special Collections, who may be contacted at 212:769-5420, or at [email protected]. Application on web site,

Biographical / Historical

Newell was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1909, but his family soon moved to Stafford, a small town in Kansas, where he attended public schools, and first became interested in fossils and geology. He went to the University of Kansas in Lawrence for his B.S. and M.A., later going to Yale for his PhD. (1933). In Kansas he was mentored by Raymond C. Moore, and at Yale by his PhD. Supervisor, Carl O. Dunbar, and by Charles Schuchert and J. Brookes Knight. After graduating, he spent an additional year at Yale as a Sterling Fellow doing research on fossil bivalve mollusks. Newell’s first professional employment was as a geologist with the Kansas State Geological Survey. His teaching career began with an appointment in 1934 to the University of Kansas geology faculty. In 1937 he was appointed an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin. In 1942 the U. S. State Department recommended him to the Peruvian government to participate in that country’s survey of petroleum resources. The assignment lasted for three years and included extensive geological mapping in the high Andes. After World War II, in 1945, he had a joint position as a Professor at Columbia University and a curator at the American Museum of Natural History. He officially retired in 1977, but continued his work at the Museum until 2003. His research and teaching work was in the areas of invertebrate paleontology and geology. Throughout his career he regarded fossil bivalves as a basis for discerning evolutionary principles. Through the first half of the twentieth century, invertebrate paleontologists worked mainly with two goals: (1) discover, describe, and name fossils; (2) apply them in stratigraphic correlation (i.e. similar fossil content in geographically separated formations indicates similar position in the geological time scale). Newell’s work emphasized (1) that the fossils were once living organisms so they should be studied from the standpoint of biological and ecological principles and (2) the resulting information should be integrated with the work of evolutionary biologists to the benefit of both disciplines (mutualism). These concepts are now accepted by all, and the term “paleobiology” is in common use. Eventually his interests covered the history of the earth and its life, and included the study of ancient and modern reefs, the environment, stratigraphy, extinctions, paleoecology and marine geology, and the teaching of science literacy to students and the general public. He was an active participant in the reactivated creation/evolution controversy. In addition to Newell’s research at the Museum, a high priority for him was always working in the field with his students and his colleagues, in the United States and in many regions of the world. One former student at Columbia University, and later Professor of Geology at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Donald W. Boyd, was especially active for several decades in collaborating with Newell in research on fossil bivalves. (For further information refer to Mss N495 Box 49A.)


33 Linear Feet (74 boxes) : Handwritten and typed or printed material, and photographic plates.

Language of Materials


Condition Note

Some rather old and fragile.

Custodial History

Papers were from Newell’s office in the Museum, and from his home in Leonia, New Jersey.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Norman and Gillian Newell.

Related Materials

Bound set of Newell reprints and some books to be found in the Museum’s Osborn Library, Paleontology Division. Other information is in the Invertebrate Archives and with Oral Histories in the Library (MSS A45.073). Also to be found in the Library: Norman D. Newell Photographic Print Collection. PPC N480 , Photographic Negative Collection. PNC N480, and Photographic Slide Collection. PSC N676, and Lantern Slides (filed with Lantern Slide Collection LS 357 as well as Memorabilia and Films (still un-cataloged but listed at end).

Physical Description

Handwritten and typed or printed material, and photographic plates.


Norman Dennis Newell Manuscript Collection, 1909-2005 (bulk 1973-2003)
Gillian Newell
August, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Minimal level collection record created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420