Robert Bakker

robert bakker
Robert Bakker.


Robert Bakker






About Robert Bakker

Probably no paleontologist alive today has had as much of an impact on popular culture as Robert Bakker. Bakker was one of the technical advisers for the original Jurassic Park movie (along with two other famous figures from the dinosaur world, Jack Horner and the science writer Don Lessem), and a character in the sequel The Lost World, Dr. Robert Burke, was inspired by him.

He has also written a best-selling novel (Raptor Red, about a day in the life of a Utahraptor), as well as the 1986 nonfiction book The Dinosaur Heresies. (There's a bit of an in-joke in The Lost World: Bakker believes Tyrannosaurus Rex was a predator, while Horner believes T. Rex was a scavenger, so having Burke eaten whole in the movie lends support to the former hypothesis!)

Among his fellow paleontologists, Bakker is best known for his theory (inspired by his mentor John H. Ostrom) that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, pointing to the active behavior of raptors like Deinonychus and the physiology of sauropods, whose cold-blooded hearts, Bakker argues, wouldn't have been capable of pumping blood all the way up to their heads, 30 or 40 feet above the ground. Although Bakker is known for stating his views forcefully, not all of his fellow scientists are convinced, some of them suggesting that dinosaurs may have had "intermediate" or "homeothermic" metabolisms rather than being strictly warm- or cold-blooded.

​Bakker is a bit of maverick in another way: in addition to being the curator of paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, he's also an ecumenical Pentecostal minister who likes to argue against interpreting biblical texts literally, preferring to see the New and Old Testaments as guides to ethics rather than to historical or scientific facts.

Unusually for a paleontologist who has had such an outsized impact on his field, Bakker isn't especially well known for his field work; for instance, he hasn't discovered or named any dinosaurs (or prehistoric animals) of note, though he did have a hand in investigating Allosaurus nesting sites in Wyoming (and concluding that the hatchlings of these predators received at least a modicum of parental attention). Bakker's influence can be traced above all to The Dinosaur Heresies; many of the theories he promotes in this book (including his speculation that dinosaurs grew much more rapidly than had been previously believed) have since been widely accepted by both the scientific establishment and the general public.

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Strauss, Bob. "Robert Bakker." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2017, Strauss, Bob. (2017, February 1). Robert Bakker. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "Robert Bakker." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2018).