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Henry Fairfield Osborn

1857-1935 Henry Fairfield Osborn - Photo courtesy of New York Museum of Natural History
  • Zoologist, paleontologist, and university professor.
  • Best known for his work at the American Museum of Natural History, 1891 - 1933. He was the first curator of the museum's Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, and later served for many years as the museum's president. He collected many fossils, and identified and named many kinds of dinosaurs. In 1918, he was one of the co-founders of the Save-the-Redwoods League. Unfortunately, Osobrn, like many scientists of the day, publicly espoused pseudoscientific theories that people of color are evolutionarily inferior to whites, and was a supporter of eugenics. There is no evidence John Muir supported such beliefs. Muir had died before the active time of the eugenics movement.
  • Muir met Osborn at his Hudson River estate Castle rock during his 1893 visit to the East Coast when his editor and friend, Robert Underwood Johnson, introduced Muir to numerous luminaries of the day in New York. Thus began many years of friendship and correspondence with Osborn and his wife and children. In 1896, Muir and Osbornnv isited Alaska together (Muir's fifth trip to Alaska). Osborn wrote several anecdotes about John Muir in his Field Notebook kept on the trip.
  • During Muir's 1898 East coast trip studying forests, he stayed for several days at Osborn's summer house "Wing-and-Wing," part of the Castle Rock property at Garrison-on-Hudson. Muir wrote in a letter home to his daughter Helen: "What a charming home it is, in the hushed, tranquil woods, though so near huge Babylon New York. I have the 'blue room'... and it has the daintiest linen and embroidery I ever saw. The bed is so soft and fine I like to lie awake to enjoy it, instead of sleeping. A servant brings in a cup of coffee before I rise. This morning, a red squirrel looked in the window at me from a branch of a big tulip tree, and seemed to be saying, "Oh, John Muir, camping, tramping tree-climbing scrambler! Churr, 'Chur! Why have you left us? Chip Churr, who would have thought it?'"
  • In 1910, Muir took the Osborn family on a trip to Yosemite. In July of 1911, Muir spent time at Osborn's summer house "Wing-andWing" in Garrison, New York, working on editing the final proofs for The Yosemite.
  • Osborn's son, (Henry) Fairfield Osborn, Jr., (1887-1969) became a leading conservationist and author of one of the earliest globally focused review of environmental concerns, Our Plundered Planet in 1948. He was an active board member and president for the New York Zoological Society and co-founder and firsts president of the Conservation Foundation.

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