Roy Chapman Andrews

roy chapman andrews
Roy Chapman Andrews (Wikimedia Commons).


Roy Chapman Andrews





Dinosaurs Discovered:

Oviraptor, Velociraptor, Saurornithoides; also discovered numerous prehistoric mammals and other animals

About Roy Chapman Andrews

Although he had a long, active career in paleontology--he was director of the prestigious American Museum of Natural History from 1935 to 1942--Roy Chapman Andrews is best known for his fossil-hunting excursions to Mongolia in the early 1920's. At this time, Mongolia was a truly exotic destination, not yet dominated by China, virtually inaccessible by mass transport, and rife with political instability. During his expeditions, Andrews used both automobiles and camels to traverse the hostile terrain, and he had a number of narrow escapes that added to his reputation as a dashing adventurer (he was later said to have been the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies).

Andrews' Mongolian expeditions were not only newsworthy; they also immeasurably advanced the world's knowledge about dinosaurs. Andrews discovered numerous dinosaur fossils at the Flaming Cliffs formation in Mongolia, including the type specimens of Oviraptor and Velociraptor, but today he's most famous for unearthing the first indisputable evidence of dinosaur eggs (before the 1920's, scientists were unsure if dinosaurs laid eggs or gave birth to live young). Even then, he managed to make a huge (if understandable) blunder: Andrews believed his Oviraptor specimen had stolen the eggs of a nearby Protoceratops, but in fact this"egg thief" turned out to be hatching its own young!

​Oddly enough, when he embarked for Mongolia, Andrews did not have dinosaurs or other prehistoric fauna uppermost in his mind. ​Along with his fellow paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn, Andrews believed that the ultimate ancestors of humans originated in Asia, rather than Africa, and he wanted to find indisputable fossil evidence to support this theory. Although it's possible that an early offshoot of hominids branched off into Asia millions of years ago, the bulk of the evidence today is that human beings did in fact originate in Africa.

Roy Chapman Andrews is most often associated with his dinosaur discoveries, but he was responsible for excavating and/or naming a respectable number of prehistoric mammals as well, including a specimen of the giant terrestrial grazer Indricotherium and the giant Eocene predator Andrewsarchus (which was named by a paleontologist on one of Andrews' central Asian expeditions in honor of his fearless leader). As far as we know, these two mammals were the largest terrestrial herbivore and the largest terrestrial carnivore, respectively, ever to roam the face of the earth.