Paleontologists

Paleontologists study the fossils of plants, animals and other organisms in order to understand the forms of life that existed during the prehistoric or geologic times. The work of paleontologists throws light on the earth’s history: catastrophic events, geologic composition, and climate changes. Paleontology is a field intimately related to a number of other sciences like geology, biology, archeology, biochemistry, mathematics, and anatomy among others. Some paleontologists may work on field on sites locating fossil beds and excavating remains. Even though this is an important part of their work, most of the times paleontologists do not have to visit the fossil sites themselves, often specimen discovered by other professionals while working on mining or petroleum sites are sent to the paleontologists for examination. They determine the age of the fossils using sophisticated techniques and observe the features to identify the species. The findings of their research provide vital insight into the earth’s history and evolution of life forms. Paleontologists primarily work in research or in teaching jobs. This section provides you information about the life and works of various famous paleontologists from all over the world.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin
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Famous As: Naturalist known for His Contributions to Evolutionary Biology
Birthdate: February 12, 1809
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: The Mount House, Shrewsbury, England
Died: April 19, 1882

Widely regarded as one of the most influential personalities in the history of mankind, Charles Darwin was an English biologist, naturalist, and geologist. He is credited with publishing the Theory of Evolution, which explains the evolution of life from a unicellular organism to human beings. A prolific writer, Charles Darwin also wrote important books on plants and barnacles.

 2 Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould
4
Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: September 10, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bayside, New York, United States
Died: May 20, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould was an American evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and historian of science. One of the most widely read and influential authors of popular science, Gould was named a Living Legend in April 2000 by the US Library of Congress. He is also counted among the most frequently cited scientists, as far as evolutionary theory is concerned.

 3 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
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Famous As: Jesuit Priest who Co-developed the Concept of Noosphere & was Part of the Discovery of took part in the Discovery of Peking Man
Birthdate: May 1, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Orcines, France
Died: April 10, 1955

French paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is remembered as someone who deviated from theology to science. He discovered the fossilized remains known as the Peking man in China, but faced a lot of opposition from his religious superiors when it came to publishing his scientific thoughts.

 4 Richard Leakey

Richard Leakey
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Famous As: Paleoanthropologist
Birthdate: December 19, 1944
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Nairobi, Kenya
Died: January 2, 2022

Born to anthropologist parents, Richard Leakey initially worked as a safari guide. On an expedition to Ethiopia, he and his men stumbled upon Koobi Fora, a site where they unearthed numerous tools and fossils. The Kenyan paleoanthropologist later lost his legs in a plane crash and now uses artificial limbs.

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 5 Richard Owen

Richard Owen
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Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: July 20, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: December 18, 1892

 6 Mary Leakey

Mary Leakey
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Famous As: Paleoanthropologist
Birthdate: February 6, 1913
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 9, 1996

British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey had exhibited her interest in drawing and archaeology as a kid. Most of her career was spent working alongside her husband, Louis Leakey. She was in charge of many excavation projects in Kenya. Her discoveries include the first Proconsul skull fossil and 15 new animal species.

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 7 William Buckland

William Buckland
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Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: March 12, 1784
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Axminster, Devon, England
Died: August 14, 1856
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 8 Roy Chapman Andrews

Roy Chapman Andrews
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Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: January 26, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States
Died: March 11, 1960

Roy Chapman Andrews was an American adventurer, explorer, and naturalist. He is best remembered for his association with the American Museum of Natural History where he also served as the director. Andrews is credited with bringing to the museum the first-known fossil dinosaur eggs. His life and career are said to have inspired George Lucas' famous character, Indiana Jones.

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 9 Tim Flannery

Tim Flannery
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Famous As: Biologist, Paleontologist, Zoologist, Environmentalist
Birthdate: January 28, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Melbourne

Tim Flannery is an Australian paleontologist, mammalogist, environmentalist, explorer, conservationist, and public scientist. Tim Flannery is credited with discovering over 30 mammal species. He is also credited with co-founding Climate Council, a non-profit organization that aims at providing accurate information on climate change to the Australian public. In 2007, Tim Flannery was named Australian of the Year.

 10 Caitlín R. Kiernan

Caitlín R. Kiernan
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: May 26, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Skerries, Ireland

Caitlín R. Kiernan is an Irish-born American author and paleontologist. A two-time winner of both the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy awards, Kiernan has written over 250 short stories and several novels. She has also won several other prestigious awards, such as the International Horror Guild Award, Barnes and Noble Maiden Voyage Award, and James Tiptree, Jr. Award.  

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 11 Robert T. Bakker

Robert T. Bakker
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Famous As: Paleontologist, Novelist, University teacher
Birthdate: March 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bergen County

Robert T. Bakker is an American paleontologist known for his studies concerning dinosaurs. Bakker helped reform modern theories pertaining to dinosaurs. He also played a major role in instituting the ongoing dinosaur renaissance. Bakker has been an important supporter of the theory that dinosaurs were smart, fast, and warm-blooded. He was one of the advisors for the movie Jurassic Park.

 12 Jack Horner

Jack Horner
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: June 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Shelby, Montana, United States

One of the world’s best-known paleontologists, Jack Horner is known for discovering the duck-billed dinosaur genus named Maiasaura. The Romer-Simpson Medal winner had unearthed his first dinosaur fossil at age 8. He has also been a technical advisor for the Jurassic Park movies and had a cameo in Jurassic World.

 13 Henry Fairfield Osborn

Henry Fairfield Osborn
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Famous As: Geologist, Paleontologist
Birthdate: August 8, 1857
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fairfield
Died: September 6, 1935

Henry Fairfield Osborn was an American geologist, paleontologist, and eugenics advocate. He is best remembered for his association with the American Museum of Natural History where he served as the president for 25 years. Osborn is also remembered for developing his own evolutionary theory which he called the Dawn Man Theory.

 14 George Gaylord Simpson

George Gaylord Simpson
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: June 16, 1902
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: October 6, 1984

George Gaylord Simpson was an American paleontologist. He was one of the 20th century's most influential paleontologists. Simpson, who wrote extensively on the taxonomy of extant mammals and fossils, is credited with coining the word hypodigm. From 1945 to 1959, he served as the curator of the Department of Paleontology and Geology at the American Museum of Natural History.

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 15 C.H. Waddington

C.H. Waddington
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Famous As: Developmental Biologist
Birthdate: November 8, 1905
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Evesham, England
Died: September 26, 1975

British embryologist C.H. Waddington had studied paleontology before turning to biology. A professor of zoology and embryology, he later also taught animal genetics. His interests also included poetry, painting, and Marxism. He introduced concepts such as epigenetic landscape and genetic assimilation, and penned books such as Principles of Embryology.

 16 Gideon Mantell

Gideon Mantell
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Famous As: Obstetrician
Birthdate: February 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lewes, England
Died: November 10, 1852
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 17 Louise Leakey

Louise Leakey
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: March 21, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nairobi, Kenya

 18 Paul Sereno

Paul Sereno
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Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: October 11, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aurora, Illinois, United States

Paul Sereno is an American professor of paleontology who works at the University of Chicago. Sereno also serves as an explorer-in-residence for National Geographic and is credited with discovering many new dinosaur species, including an almost complete specimen of SuperCroc. Over the years, Paul Sereno and his discoveries have been featured in several documentaries. 

 19 Eugène Dubois

Eugène Dubois
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Famous As: Curator, Geologist, Physician, Anthropologist, Paleontologist, Archaeologist, Prehistorian, Paleoanthropologist
Birthdate: January 28, 1858
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Eijsden
Died: December 16, 1940

 20 Birbal Sahni

Birbal Sahni
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Famous As: Palaeobotanist
Birthdate: 1891 AD
Birthplace: Saharanpur district
Died: April 10, 1949

Birbal Sahni was a pioneer of palaeobotanical research in India. The founder of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, he also taught botany at BHU and Lucknow University. He was also interested in music and tennis, and loved collecting coins. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society, too.

 21 Eduard Suess

Eduard Suess
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Famous As: Paleontologist, Politician, University teacher, Scientist, Geologist
Birthdate: August 20, 1831
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London
Died: April 26, 1914

 22 Joseph Leidy

Joseph Leidy
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: September 9, 1823
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: April 30, 1891

Joseph Leidy was an American parasitologist, paleontologist, and anatomist. He is credited with writing an influential and important book titled Extinct Fauna of Dakota and Nebraska which housed several previously unknown and not described species. He also served as a professor at many educational institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College.

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 23 Daniel Lieberman

Daniel Lieberman
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Famous As: Paleoanthropologist
Birthdate: June 3, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Daniel Lieberman is an American paleoanthropologist best known for his association with Harvard University where he holds important positions. Lieberman is also known for his studies and research on the evolution of the human body and the human head. Over the years, he has been honored with several awards, including the IgNobel Prize in Physics. 

 24 Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas

Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas
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Famous As: Geologist, Paleontologist and Albanologist
Birthdate: May 3, 1877
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Deva, Romania
Died: April 25, 1933

 25 John Ostrom

John Ostrom
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: February 18, 1928
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York, United States
Died: July 16, 2005

John Ostrom was an American paleontologist who helped transform the modern understanding of dinosaurs during the '60s. His work helped inspire a new generation of dinosaur films as he proved that dinosaurs were more agile and dangerous than previously thought. In 1966, Ostrom played a major role in the founding of Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

 26 Henry De la Beche

Henry De la Beche
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Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: February 10, 1796
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 13, 1855
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 27 Franz Weidenreich

Franz Weidenreich
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Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: June 7, 1873
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edenkoben, Germany
Died: July 11, 1948

Franz Weidenreich was a German physical anthropologist and anatomist. Weidenreich, who studied evolution, is credited with pioneering the multiregional hypothesis which provides a different explanation to the standardized recent African origin model (RAO) of monogenesis. The Weidenreich Theory was supported by several anthropologists, including Carleton S. Coon.

 28 Florentino Ameghino

Florentino Ameghino
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Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: September 18, 1854
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Luján, Argentina
Died: August 6, 1911
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 29 Alfred Romer

Alfred Romer
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: December 28, 1894
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: White Plains, New York, United States
Died: November 5, 1973

Alfred Romer was an American biologist and paleontologist who specialized in vertebrate evolution. He is credited with authoring an influential book titled Vertebrate Paleontology, which paved the way for the traditional classification of vertebrates. Alfred Romer is also credited with popularizing a diagram called romerogram which represents taxonomic diversity against geological time.

 30 Dorothy Hill

Dorothy Hill
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Famous As: Geologist, Paleontologist
Birthdate: September 10, 1907
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died: April 23, 1997
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 31 Johan Gunnar Andersson

Johan Gunnar Andersson
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Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: July 3, 1874
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Närke, Sweden
Died: October 29, 1960

Swedish geologist and archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson was one of the pioneers of the study on prehistoric China. He discovered the origins of what later came to be known as the Yangshao culture. The Vega Medal winner also penned works such as Children of the Yellow Earth.

 32 Alcide d'Orbigny

Alcide d'Orbigny
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Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: September 6, 1802
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Coueron, France
Died: June 30, 1857

 33 Kenneth Lacovara

Kenneth Lacovara
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: March 11, 1961
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pleasantville, New Jersey

Kenneth Lacovara is an American paleontologist who works at Rowan University. Lacovara is credited with the discovery of Dreadnoughtus. He was also involved in the discovery of the Paralititan. In 2017, he published his book Why Dinosaurs Matter which earned him a Nautilus Book Award. He has also been honored by the Explorers Club with the prestigious Explorers Club Medal.

 34 Paul Gervais

Paul Gervais
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: September 26, 1816
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 10, 1879
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 35 Marcellin Boule

Marcellin Boule
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Famous As: Palaeontologist
Birthdate: January 1, 1861
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Montsalvy, France
Died: July 4, 1942

 36 Alexander Wetmore

Alexander Wetmore
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Famous As: Ornithologist
Birthdate: June 18, 1886
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: North Freedom, Wisconsin, United States
Died: December 7, 1978

Alexander Wetmore was an American avian paleontologist and ornithologist who served as the Secretary of the popular Smithsonian Institution from 1945 to 1952. He also served as the president of The Explorers Club from 1944 to 1946. Alexander Wetmore is also remembered for his influential 4-volume book, Birds of the Republic of Panama.

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 37 James Hall

James Hall
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Famous As: Geologist, Paleontologist
Birthdate: September 12, 1811
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hingham, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 7, 1898

Best known for his contribution to the geosynclinal theory of mountain building, paleontologist and geologist James Hall had also taught at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and worked at the Geological Survey of New York. The National Academy of Sciences member had also penned works such as The Paleontology of New York.

 38 David M. Raup

David M. Raup
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: April 24, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 9, 2015

David M. Raup was an American paleontologist who worked at the University of Chicago. Raup is best remembered for his contribution to the knowledge and database of extinction events. In 2002, David M. Raup was inducted into the American Philosophical Society.

 39 Jean-Jacques Hublin

Jean-Jacques Hublin
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Famous As: Paleoanthropologist
Birthdate: November 30, 1953
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mostaganem, Algeria

 40 Brian Axsmith

Brian Axsmith
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Famous As: Paleobotanist
Birthdate: June 3, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: United States
Died: May 5, 2020

Brian Axsmith was an American paleoecologist and paleobotanist. He also taught evolutionary biology, ecology, and the evolution of vascular plants at the University of South Alabama. Brian Axsmith is credited with discovering fossilized pollen, fossilized Pterocarya wingnuts, and the post-Eocene fossil records of the ironwood trees.

 41 Pierre-Joseph van Beneden

Pierre-Joseph van Beneden
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: December 19, 1809
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mechelen, Belgium
Died: January 8, 1894

 42 Clive Finlayson

Clive Finlayson
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Famous As: Paleontologist who is Director of the Gibraltar National Museum
Birthdate: January 15, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gibraltar

 43 Christian Leopold von Buch

Christian Leopold von Buch
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Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: April 26, 1774
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Germany
Died: March 4, 1853

 44 Karl Alfred, knight von Zittel

Karl Alfred, knight von Zittel
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Famous As: German paleontologist
Birthdate: September 25, 1839
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bahlingen, Germany
Died: January 5, 1904

 45 Nathaniel Shaler

Nathaniel Shaler
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: February 20, 1841
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Newport, Kentucky, United States
Died: April 10, 1906

Nathaniel Shaler was an American geologist and paleontologist. He is best remembered for his writings on the scientific and theological implications of the theory of evolution. Shaler is also remembered for his association with Harvard University where he served as Dean of Sciences. He was also regarded as one of the most popular teachers in the university.

 46 Joachim Barrande

Joachim Barrande
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Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: August 11, 1799
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Saugues, France
Died: October 5, 1883

 47 Alpheus Hyatt

Alpheus Hyatt
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Famous As: Zoologist
Birthdate: April 5, 1838
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: January 15, 1902

Alpheus Hyatt was an American paleontologist and zoologist. He is credited with co-founding a scientific journal named The American Naturalist for which he served as the editor between 1867 and 1870. He also served as the professor of zoology and paleontology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he taught for 18 years.

 48 Édouard Lartet

Édouard Lartet
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Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: April 15, 1801
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Castelnau-Barbarens, France
Died: January 28, 1871

 49 Amadeus William Grabau

Amadeus William Grabau
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Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: January 9, 1870
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cedarburg, Wisconsin, United States
Died: March 20, 1946

Born to German immigrants in New York, Amadeus William Grabau had initially apprenticed as a bookbinder and later studied geology at MIT and Harvard. His research on stratigraphy and paleoecology in China earned him the title of the father of Chinese geology. He has also worked for the Japanese Army.

 50 William Diller Matthew

William Diller Matthew
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Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: February 19, 1871
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint John, Canada
Died: September 24, 1930

William Diller Matthew was a paleontologist best remembered for his work on mammal fossils. He is also remembered for serving as the curator at the American Museum of Natural History from the 1890s to 1927. From 1927 to 1930, he also worked at the University of California Museum of Paleontology where he served as the director.