Charles Hazelius Sternberg

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Charles Hazelius Sternberg
Born(1850-06-15)June 15, 1850
DiedJuly 20, 1943(1943-07-20) (aged 93)
Scientific career

Charles Hazelius Sternberg (June 15, 1850 – July 20, 1943), was an American fossil collector and amateur paleontologist.


Sternberg's older brother, Dr. George M. Sternberg (1838–1915), was a military surgeon assigned to Fort Harker, near Ellsworth, Kansas, and brought the rest of the Sternberg family to Kansas to live on his ranch circa 1868. Once there, Charles became interested in collecting fossil leaves from the Dakota Sandstone Formation. In the 1870s, Charles studied at Kansas State under the noted paleontologist Benjamin Franklin Mudge but he soon left school in order to spend more time in the field.

During the early years of the Bone Wars, Charles Sternberg collected fossils in the western United States for Edward Drinker Cope.[1]:32 Starting in 1884, he collected in Long Island, Kansas for Cope's rival, Othniel C. Marsh, working with John Bell Hatcher.[1]:31-32 Sternberg wrote two books about his paleontological adventures: The Life of a Fossil Hunter (1909)[2] and Hunting Dinosaurs in the Badlands of the Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada: A Sequel to The Life of a Fossil Hunter (1917).[3]

Personal life[edit]

Sternberg married Anna Musgrave Reynolds on 7 July 1880. One son died in toddlerhood, and their only daughter died at age 20 in 1911.[4] Three sons survived into adulthood, George F. Sternberg (1883–1969), Charles Mortram Sternberg (1885–1981), and Levi Sternberg (1894–1976), who also had careers in vertebrate paleontology. They became famous for their collecting abilities and many discoveries, including the "Trachodon mummy", an exquisitely preserved specimen of Edmontosaurus annectens (see hadrosaurid). Son George was also a noted fossil hunter famous for finding the iconic "fish within a fish" — a 13-foot (4.0 m) Xiphactinus which had inside it a nicely preserved, 6-foot (1.8 m) Gillicus arcuatus.

Charles Sternberg was a deeply religious man. He wrote devotional poetry and published a collection of poems called A Story of the Past: Or, the Romance of Science (1911). [5][6] In his old age, he would visit the American Museum of Natural History to view his finds, and one visit to the "Trachodon mummy" inspired the following quote:

Sternberg Museum[edit]

Fossils collected by Charles Sternberg, including dinosaurs from the western United States and Canada, are in museums around the world. Many of the fossils discovered by Charles Sternberg's son, George F. Sternberg, are on display in the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In Robert J. Sawyer's novel End of an Era (1994), the Canadian protagonists' time machine is named His Majesty's Canadian Timeship Charles Hazelius Sternberg, because of the two scientists journeying back to the Cretaceous era, one is a paleontologist. The narrator comments that "our timeship is almost universally known as the Sternberger, because to most people it looks like a fat hamburger."[8]
  • Tim Bowling's novel The Bone Sharps (2007) centres about the fossil-hunting work of Charles Sternberg in Kansas, in 1876 and 1916. Secondary characters are Sternberg's young assistant, Scott, who served in the trenches of World War I; another bone hunter, Scott's fiancee (1916) and possibly widow (1975), Lily; and Charles Sternberg's deceased daughter, Maud; as well as Edward Drinker Cope and Cope's wife Annie.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Dingus, Lowell (2018). King of the Dinosaur Hunters : the life of John Bell Hatcher and the discoveries that shaped paleontology. Pegasus Books. ISBN 9781681778655.
  2. ^ Sternberg, Charles Hazelius (1909). The Life of a Fossil Hunter. Henry Holt and Company.
  3. ^ Sternberg, Charles Hazelius (1917). Hunting Dinosaurs in the Badlands of the Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada. Lawrence, Kansas.
  4. ^ Everhart, Mike (2004-10-13). "Charles H. Sternberg: Fossil Hunter". Oceans of Kansas. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  5. ^ Sternberg, Charles Hazelius (1911). A Story of the Past: or, The Romance of Science. Boston: Sherman, French & Company.
  6. ^ Rogers, Ed (2013). "Rare Paleontology Book, Charles H. Sternberg; A Story of the Past". Ed Rogers Rare and Out of Print Geology Books. Ed Rogers Geology Books. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  7. ^ Preston, Douglas J. (1986). Dinosaurs in the Attic - An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History. New York: St Martin's Press.
  8. ^ Sawyer, Robert J. (1994). End of an Era. New York: TOR. p. 21. ISBN 0-312-87693-9.
  9. ^ Bowling, Tim (2007). The Bone Sharps. Kentville, Nova Scotia: Gaspereau Press Limited. ISBN 978-1-55447-035-8.
  10. ^ Crichton, Michael (2017). Dragon Teeth: A Novel. New York: Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-247335-6.

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