2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM

Movers and Shakers in 20th Century American Paleontology

DUTRO Jr, J. Thomas, United States Geological Survey (retired), 5173 Fulton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20016-3448, dutrot@si.edu

During its century of existence, essentially the 20th Century, the Paleontological Society grew from a small group of more or less isolated, independent American researchers and college teachers to an international organization devoted to the advancment of paleontology. Not the least of its accomplishments was supporting and maintaining a world-class bimonthly journal encompassing the broad spectrum of scientific subdisciplines now termed paleobiology. In the past three decades, its publishing program has expanded to a second, more biologically oriented quarterly journal, a monograph series that includes systematic syntheses, and special proceedings of both meetings symposia and specialized short courses.

In 1909, there were fewer than one hundred original members, about half of whom could be considered "movers and shakers" during their lifetimes. The only concentrations beyond scattered academics and small museums were: 1) Smithsonian Institution, including U.S.Geological Survey-11; 2)New York City,including Columbia and American Museum-8; 3)Harvard-4; 4)Yale-4;and Johns Hopkins-4. This is not surprising as the impetus to form the society came from the Boston-D.C. axis, and six of the first officers, including President Schuchert, were at these places. Most of the members were invertebrate paleontologists and stratigraphers whose major research goals were solving geologic problems. They had inherited their natural history bias from late 19th Century territorial and geological surveys, including the U.S.G.S. and a number of active state surveys.

This paper traces the growth of paleontology during the 20th Century, as reflected by development of academic, regional, and national laboratories of biostratigraphy, paleontology and, finally, paleobiology (with all its biologically-oriented subdisciplines), with a Paleontological Society of more than 1700 specialists. I use as a template for this fossil genealogy, the impact of the Yale University geology department and graduate school, a fitting tribute to our first president and mentor to several generations of "movers and shakers" in paleontology.