Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Osborn, Henry Fairfield

US paleontologist (Sc.D., Princeton, 1881); studied briefly with T. H. Huxley in England. Osborn rose through the ranks to become president of the American Museum of Natural History (1908-33). He was a neo-Lamarckian and orthogeneticist, and supported the concept of an ancient evolutionary link between apes and humans, yet did not believe that the extant European fossil hominids (Heidelberg, Piltdown, Cro-Magnon) were predecessors of modern humans. Rather, Osborn held that each of these were extinct lineages. Osborn was also highly political and, with C. R. Davenport, was a founding member of the Galton Society of New York (1918), a group that sought to apply eugenic principles to US immigration policies. He was nevertheless opposed to the fundamentalism of W. J. Bryan, and developed a polygenetic view of human evolution that resulted in Men of the Old Stone Age (1915), a work with limited long-term influence. He was also the author of Fifty-two Years of Research, Observation, and Publication (1930).

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