Paleontologist Quotes (15 quotes)
As long as museums and universities send out expeditions to bring to light new forms of living and extinct animals and new data illustrating the interrelations of organisms and their environments, as long as anatomists desire a broad comparative basis human for anatomy, as long as even a few students feel a strong curiosity to learn about the course of evolution and relationships of animals, the old problems of taxonomy, phylogeny and evolution will gradually reassert themselves even in competition with brilliant and highly fruitful laboratory studies in cytology, genetics and physiological chemistry.
Experimental geology has this in common with all other branches of our science, petrology and palaeontology included, that in the long run it withers indoors.
I don’t like to say bad things about paleontologists, but they’re really not very good scientists. They’re more like stamp collectors.
I view the major features of my own odyssey as a set of mostly fortunate contingencies. I was not destined by inherited mentality or family tradition to become a paleontologist. I can locate no tradition for scientific or intellectual careers anywhere on either side of my eastern European Jewish background ... I view my serious and lifelong commitment to baseball in entirely the same manner: purely as a contingent circumstance of numerous, albeit not entirely capricious, accidents.
In a manner which matches the fortuity, if not the consequence, of Archimedes’ bath and Newton’s apple, the [3.6 million year old] fossil footprints were eventually noticed one evening in September 1976 by the paleontologist Andrew Hill, who fell while avoiding a ball of elephant dung hurled at him by the ecologist David Western.
In order to survive, an animal must be born into a favoring or at least tolerant environment. Similarly, in order to achieve preservation and recognition, a specimen of fossil man must be discovered in intelligence, attested by scientific knowledge, and interpreted by evolutionary experience. These rigorous prerequisites have undoubtedly caused many still-births in human palaeontology and are partly responsible for the high infant mortality of discoveries of geologically ancient man.
It may be said of many palaeontologists, as Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper said recently of 18th century historians: “Their most serious error was to measure the past by the present”.
I’m not an historian but I can get interested—obsessively interested—with any aspect of the past, whether it’s palaeontology or archaeology or the very recent past.
Mary Anning [is] probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of paleontology.
Palaeontologists cannot live by uniformitarianism alone. This may be termed the Phenomenon of the Fallibility of the Fossil Record.
Palaeontology is the Aladdin's lamp of the most deserted and lifeless regions of the earth; it touches the rocks and there spring forth in orderly succession the monarchs of the past and the ancient river streams and savannahs wherein they flourished. The rocks usually hide their story in the most difficult and inaccessible places.
Paleontology is a very visual inquiry. All paleontologists scribble on napkins at coffee breaks, making sketches to explain their thinking
Several very eminent living paleontologists frequently emphasise the abruptness of some of the major changes that have occurred, and seek for an external cause. This is a heady wine and has intoxicated palaeontologists since the days when they could blame it all on Noah's flood. In fact, books are still being published by the lunatic fringe with the same explanation. In case this book should be read by some fundamentalist searching for straws to prop up his prejudices, let me state categorically that all my experience (such as it is) has led me to an unqualified acceptance of evolution by natural selection as a sufficient explanation for what I have seen in the fossil record
The geologist strides across the landscape to get the big picture, but the paleontologist stays at one spot or shuffles along looking at the ground for his pet objects.
You will never convince some palaeontologists that an impact killed the dinosaurs unless you find a dinosaur skeleton with a crushed skull and a ring of iridium round the hole.