Earl Douglass (October 28, 1862 – January 13, 1931) was an American paleontologist who discovered the dinosaur Apatosaurus, playing a central role in one of the most important fossil finds in North America. By 1922 Earl had unearthed and shipped more than 700,000 pounds of material including nearly 20 complete skeletons of Jurassic dinosaurs such as Diplodocus, Dryosaurus, Stegosaurus, Barosaurus, Camarasaurus and Brontosaurus.
Douglass was born on October 28, 1862 in Medford, Minnesota, the son of Fernando and Abigail Louisa Carpenter Douglass. He married Pearl Charlotte Goetschius on October 20, 1905 and a few years later they had a son, Gawin Earl Douglass. Douglass died on January 13, 1931 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Douglass's early education was in the Medford public schools and the Pillsbury Academy in Owatonna, Minnesota, where he studied geology, paleontology, osteology, and mammalian anatomy. Later at the Shaw School of Botany at Washington University, he studied systematic botany and plant histology. Douglass received his master's of Science at the University of Montana in 1899. The following year at Princeton University he held a fellowship in biology, and he was granted a fellowship in geology.
In 1899, Douglass taught geology and physical geography at the University of Montana. In 1902, Douglass was hired at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to work in the field of paleontology and worked there for 15 years. From 1923 to 1924, he worked with the National Museum and University of Utah to obtain dinosaur fossils and discovered a large part of a skeleton known as Barosaurus lentus. The following year, he was employed by the University of Utah to excavate dinosaur bones.
After a botanical trip to Mexico in 1890, Douglass became assistant to Professor William Trelease at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Because he did notable research on oil, oil shale, asphalts, and other mineral deposits, he became consulting geologist for companies engaged in these fields in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Texas. His final years were spent as a geologist.
Work and contributions
Douglass played a central role in one of the most important fossil finds in North America. In 1905, he was sent to Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho to collect vertebrate and invertebrate fossils. Additionally, he obtained data to solve certain geological problems and conduct geological explorations. In 1907, Douglass traveled to the Uintah Basin in northeastern Utah to explore fossiliferous strata. Later in 1908, he explored the hills along the Green River near Jensen, Utah and came upon with the tail section of an Apatasaurus in the Morrison Formation. The following year while searching fossils for the Carnegie Museum, he discovered a formation layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. In the summer of 1909, Earl traveled to Utah to search for dinosaur skeletons, where he discovered his famous dinosaur at the Utah quarry. The dinosaur was formally named Apatosaurus louisae, after Carnegie’s wife Louise. In the same year, while climbing the Split Mountain near Jenson, Utah he found eight large vertebrae partially embedded in the rock, which turned out to be the entire body of a brontosaur nearly 70 feet long.
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