Welcome back paleontologist Jack Horner

Nov. 30, 2015


Jack Horner

Jack Horner (right) and Professor Emeritus Henry Horn of EEB (left) in Guyot Hall’s main foyer. Professor Emeritus Lincoln Hollister is in the background right.

On November 18th, the department was pleased to welcome back paleontologist Jack Horner, who gave a special seminar in Guyot Hall Room 10, entitled Dinosaur Evolutionary Patterns, or Why it was Good to Get Rid of the Princeton Paleontology Collection. He also gave a Princeton Public Lecture entitled Dinosaurs of the Past, the Present, and the Future on Tuesday, November 17th, in McCosh 50.

Jack came to the Department of Geology in the 1970’s to work with Dr. Donald Baird in the Natural History Museum then housed in Guyot Hall.  He left in the early 1980’s for The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana where he is currently Curator of Paleontology, as well as Regents Professor of Paleontology at Montana State University.  Jack discovered the first dinosaur egg nests in the Western Hemisphere, the first evidence of dinosaur colonial nesting, the first evidence of parental care among dinosaurs, and the first dinosaur embryos. His discoveries transformed our understanding of dinosaur behavior and physiology and, as a result, Jack was awarded a Doctorate of Science honoris causa from the University of Montana in 1986 and the MacArthur Fellowship in the same year.  

During his long career Jack's research has covered a wide range of topics about dinosaurs, including their behavior, physiology, ecology and evolution.  Jack is widely acknowledged to be the inspiration for the main character in the book and film Jurassic Park and has served as the scientific consultant for all the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World films. Jack has written eight books including his most recent “How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution”, and has just completed his ninth book entitled “The Theory of Dinosaurs”. Having filled The Museum of the Rockies and a 5,000 square foot warehouse with his dinosaur collections, Jack is now “retiring” from Montana State University and moving to the University of Washington, Seattle, to be a Research Associate at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and work on a new exhibit based on his Hell Creek Formation collections. Jack has also received a three year Presidential Fellow at Chapman University in Orange, California where he will teach one class a year on anything he wants.  

Here is a bit of departmental history concerning dinosaurs:

  • Until 1988, the space now occupied by PEI was the Natural History Museum and was filled with displays, half GEO-related and half EEB-related.
  • The dinosaur collection was stored where some of the B-floor labs are located today, and some of the third floor offices and lab rooms were where Jack and Don worked assiduously to assemble the dinosaurs that were then displayed in the museum. This included the duckbill dinosaur nest along with the skeletons of hatchlings and juveniles that Jack’s team was the first to discover.
  • The Natural History Museum was substantially dismantled in the late 1980’s and most of the vertebrate collection (over 24,000 specimens) was donated to the Yale Peabody Museum.  Other specimens went to the New Jersey State Museum, while the department retained some of the collection for display.
  • A portion of the museum space plus the newly built extension to Guyot, was then occupied by the Geosciences Library through the 2000’s; Rooms 177/178 were the map room.
  • After Lewis Library was built, the Geo library moved there.  Guyot’s library wing was gutted and reassembled as the current suite of teaching labs and offices.  The remaining displays in the museum were packed and placed in storage. The PEI offices were built around the Allosaurus skeleton, which was too big, and expensive, to dismantle.