"Dino" Don Lessem (born 1951) is a writer of more than 50 popular science books, specializing in dinosaurs. He was the founder of the Dinosaur Society and the Jurassic Foundation, which collectively have raised millions of dollars for dinosaur research.
After a bachelor's degree in art history at Brandeis University and a master's in animal behavior from the University of Massachusetts Boston, Lessem began his writing career as a researcher for the Smithsonian Center for Short-Lived Phenomena. For more than a decade he was a science journalist specializing in conservation issues for the Boston Globe and a contributor to Life, The New York Times, and Smithsonian Magazine.
Lessem's professional interest in dinosaurs developed while he was a Knight Journalism Fellow at MIT in 1988. He wrote his first book, Kings of Creation, in 1990, as a survey current worldwide paleontology research.
Lessem was advisor to Jurassic Park, Dinosaur, and Disney's Animal Kingdom, as well as their respective theme park attractions. He has written and hosted Discovery Channel and NOVA documentaries on dinosaurs and is a television and radio commentator on paleontology. The sauropodomorph dinosaur Lessemsaurus is named after him.
Lessem's exhibition company, Exhibits Rex, has created several of the largest international travelling museum exhibitions of dinosaurs, including Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Chinasaurs, in addition to an exhibition of the treasures of Genghis Khan. These exhibitions appear widely in the United States but also have toured Mongolia, Singapore, and Canada.
Another of Lessem's companies, Dinodon, Inc., co-holds the sponsorship rights to the principal entry to the Great Wall of China.
Lessem has also authored children's books on extinct animals, endangered species, the Amazon rainforest and the "Iceman". Via his monthly column in Highlights Magazine for a decade, "Dino" Don answered more than 10,000 letters from children. He created the non-profit children's newspaper Dino Times, which ran from 1981 to 1984. At the behest of Universal Studios, 1.3 million copies of a special edition of Dino Times were distributed at the opening of Jurassic Park.
Lessem is also the author of several humorous books including Aerphobics, Death by Roller Disco, How to Flatten Your Nose, and The Worst of Everything. His humorous essays have appeared in Punch, The New York Times and The Atlantic.
Lessem was the creator of Earth Quest Adventures, a theme park and resort planned for East Montgomery County, west of Houston, in 2008. He is also the initial designer of a wetlands attraction in Daqing, China and an paleontology-themed attraction, Gondwana: Das Praehistorium, in Reden, Germany.
Lessem resides in Media, Pennsylvania. His wife, Valerie Jones, is a non-profit development consultant. His daughters, Rebecca Lessem and Erica Lessem, are respectively an educational software developer and a public health specialist in tuberculosis, both residing in New York
- Batcha, Becky (20 April 2015). "Meet 'Dino Don,' the Delco guy behind the Franklin Institute's upcoming Genghis Khan exhibit". Philly.com. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Alburger, Bette (20 September 2011). "Don Lessem: Dinosaur Man". Delaware County News Network. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Pirro, J. F. "Media's "Dino Don" Lessem Makes a Career From Dinosaurs" (November 2012). Today Media. Main Line Today. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Hajek, Daniel (14 June 2015). "Bankrolling A Dinosaur Dig And Unearthing A Giant: The Giganotosaurus". my big break. npr. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Malislow, Craig (11 April 2012). "Fantasy land". Houston Press. Retrieved 21 September 2015.