Edwin H. Colbert

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Edwin Harris Colbert
Edwin Harris Colbert 1.jpg
Born (1905-09-28)September 28, 1905
Clarinda, Iowa
Died 15 November 2001(2001-11-15) (aged 96)
Flagstaff, Arizona
Fields Paleontology
Institutions American Museum of Natural History
Columbia University
Museum of Northern Arizona
Known for Coelophysis
Effigia okeeffeae
Notable awards Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal (1935)
Romer-Simpson Medal (1989)

Edwin Harris "Ned" Colbert[1] (September 28, 1905 – November 15, 2001)[2] was a distinguished American vertebrate paleontologist and prolific researcher and author.

Born in Clarinda, Iowa, he grew up in Maryville, Missouri.[2] He received his A.B. from the University of Nebraska, then his Masters and Ph.D. from Columbia University, finishing in 1935. He married Margaret Matthew, daughter of the eminent paleontologist William Diller Matthew, in 1933.[3] She became a noted artist, illustrator, and sculptor who specialized in visualizing extinct species. The couple had five sons together.[2] The young family moved to Leonia, New Jersey, in 1937 and lived there for decades.[4]

Among the positions Colbert held was Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History for 40 years, and Professor Emeritus of Vertebrate Paleontogy at Columbia University. He was a protégé of Henry Fairfield Osborn, and a foremost authority on the Dinosauria.

For his work, Siwalik Mammals in the American Museum of Natural History, Colbert was awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1935.[5] He described dozens of new taxa and authored major systematic reviews, including the discovery of more than a dozen complete skeletons of a primitive small Triassic dinosaur, Coelophysis at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, in 1947 (one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur deposits ever recorded),[2] publication of their description, and a review of ceratopsian phylogeny.

In 1959, he headed an expedition to the Geopark of Paleorrota (Brazil), within Llewellyn Ivor Price.[6]

His fieldwork in Antarctica in 1969 helped solidify the acceptance of continental drift, by finding a 220-million-year-old fossil of a Lystrosaurus. His popularity and his text books on dinosaurs, paleontology, and stratigraphy (with Marshall Kay) introduced a new generation of scientists and amateur enthusiasts to the subject. He was the recipient of numerous prizes and awards commemorating his many achievements in the field of science.

He became curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1970. He died at his home in Flagstaff in 2001.[2]


Colbert wrote more than 20 books and over 400 scientific articles.[2]


  1. ^ Elliot, Charming the Bones, p. 53.
  2. ^ a b c d e f O'Connor, Anahad, "E. H. Colbert, 96, Dies; Wrote Dinosaur Books", The New York Times, November 25, 2001.
  3. ^ Elliot, Charming the Bones, p. 61.
  4. ^ Elliot, Charming the Bones, pp. 68–71.
  5. ^ "Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Antônio Isaia, Os Fascinantes Caminhos da Paleontologia. Editora Pallotti (Portuguese)
  • Ann Brimacombe Elliot, Charming the Bones: A Portrait of Margaret Matthew Colbert. Kent State University Press, 2000. ISBN 0873386485.
  • Romeu Beltrão, Cronologia Histórica de Santa Maria e do extinto município de São Martinho. 1787-1933. Vol I. Pallotti, 1958. (Portuguese)

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