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Roy Chapman Andrews

Roy Chapman Andrews (January 26, 1884, Beloit, Wisconsin - 1960, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California) was a colorful man who rose from a menial job at the American Museum of Natural History to the directorship. He is primarily known for leading a series of expeditions through the fragmented China of the early 20th Century into the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. The expeditions made important discoveries including returning the first known fossil dinosaur eggs to the Museum.

Andrews was primarily a naturalist and an organizer of expeditions. His life was a long series of travels and explorations of desert islands, raging seas, remote mountains and deserts. Numerous encounters are reported with everything from angry whales and hungry sharks, to pythons and several brushes with armed Chinese bandits. He was erroneously reported dead at least once.

Andrews is said to have been one of the models for movie legend Indiana Jones.


In 1906, after graduating from Beloit College, Andrews used money he saved from his job as a taxidermist to travel to New York City. He hoped to find work in the American Museum of Natural History. After being told there were no openings, he accepted a job scrubbing floors in the taxidermy department, and soon participated in collecting specimens.

During the next few years, he worked and studied simultaneously, obtaining a Masters of Arts in mammalogy from Columbia University.

In 1909 and 1910 he sailed as on the USS Albatross to the East Indies, collecting snakes and lizards and observing marine mammals.

Andrews married his wife, Yvette Borup Andrews , in 1914.

From 1916 to 1917, Andrews and his wife Yvette led the Asiatic Zoological Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History through much of western and southern Yunnan, as well as other provinces of China. The book Camps and Trails in China records their experiences.

In 1920 he began planning for expeditions to Mongolia, for which he drove a fleet of Dodge cars westward from Peking. In 1922, soon after beginning, the party discovered a Giant Rhinoceros (Baluchitherium), which was sent back to the American Natural History Museum, arriving on December 19, 1922. On July 13, 1923 the party were the first in the world to discover dinosaur eggs. Initially thought to be protoceratops, they were in fact oviraptors. In 1923 Walter Granger discovered a Cretaceous period skull. In 1925 the museum sent a letter back informing the party that the skull was that of a mammal, and therefore rare and valuable. More were uncovered. Expeditions in the area stopped during 1926 and 1927. The 1928, the expedition's finds were seized by Chinese authorities but were eventually returned. The 1929 expedition was cancelled. In 1930 he made one final trip and discovered some mastodon fossils. (Sixty years after Chapman's initial expedition, the American Museum of Natural History returned to Mongolia on the invitation of its government to continue exploration.) Later that year, Champan returned to the United States to divorce his wife Yvette, with whom he had two sons.

In 1934 Andrews took over as director of the American Museum of Natural History. In his 1935 book The Business of Exploring, he wrote "I was born to be an explorer", "There was never any decision to make. I couldn't do anything else and be happy."

In 1942 Andrews retired to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California where he wrote about his life and died in 1960.


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Last updated: 10-21-2005 03:07:54
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