Sue Hendrickson

sue hendrickson
Sue Hendrickson.


Sue Hendrickson





Dinosaurs Discovered:

"Tyrannosaurus Sue"

About Sue Hendrickson

Until her discovery of an intact skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sue Hendrickson was hardly a household name among paleontologists--in fact, she wasn't (and isn't) a full-time paleontologist at all, but a diver, adventurer, and collector of insects encased in amber (which have found their way into the collections of natural history museums and universities around the world). In 1990, Hendrickson participated in a fossil expedition in South Dakota led by the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research; temporarily separated from the rest of the team, she discovered a trail of small bones that led to the almost complete skeleton of an adult T. Rex, later dubbed Tyrannosaurus Sue, that catapulted her to instant fame.

After this thrilling discovery, the story becomes much more complicated. The T. Rex specimen was excavated by the Black Hills Institute, but the U.S. government (prompted by Maurice Williams, the owner of the property on which Tyrannosaurus Sue was found) took it into custody, and when ownership was finally awarded to Williams after a protracted legal battle he put the skeleton up for auction. In 1997, Tyrannosaurus Sue was purchased by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for a little over $8 million, where it now resides (happily, the museum later invited Hendrickson to give a lecture about her adventures).

In the two-plus decades since her discovery of Tyrannosaurus Sue, Sue Hendrickson hasn't been much in the news. In the early 1990's, she participated in some high-profile salvage expeditions in Egypt, searching (unsuccessfully) for the royal residence of Cleopatra and the sunken ships of Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion fleet. She wound up moving out of the U.S.--she now lives on an island off the coast of Honduras--but continues to belong to various prestigious organizations, including the Paleontological Society and the Society for Historical Archaeology. Hendrickson published her autobiography (Hunt for My Past: My Life as an Explorer) in 2010, a decade after receiving an honorary PhD degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago.