“If we are to understand our world of today we must know its past.”
—Roy Chapman Andrews
If you know of Indiana Jones, then you know Roy Chapman Andrews: the explorer, adventurer, and naturalist who was indirectly the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Andrews is well known for his expeditions to the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, where he and his team found valuable fossils we still talk about today (including dinosaur eggs, Oviraptor, and Velociraptor).
Andrews loved his work, and he was also a prolific writer who inspired many people to become paleontologists.
But we can all take lessons from him. Here are five:
- Small opportunities can lead to something greater. Andrews started his career sweeping the floors at the American Museum of Natural History, because there were no other job openings at the time. Eventually he worked his way up to become the director of the museum
- Collaboration is vital to the future. One of Andrews’ dreams was for a group of interdisciplinary scientists to work together and solve the mysteries from their expeditions
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. When he wasn’t exploring, Andrews was raising money so he could continue to explore. That meant lecturing around the country, and networking. He often met potential donors for dinner after his lectures
- Get creative. Andrews and his team found so many fossils on one expedition, that they used up all their supplies to protect them, including their flour (which meant they had less food) and their towels, clothes, and tent flaps, which they used to wrap up the fossils
- Be resilient. Andrews lost friends on some of his adventures and had his own narrow death escapes. They involved bombings, sandstorms, bandits, and attacks by whales, wild dogs, and even a large python
My last takeaway: Paleontology is for everyone, and there is so much we can learn from dinosaurs—and all fossils—and the people who work with them. (And after ~8 years of podcasting about dinosaurs, I can find the connection between dinosaurs and any topic!)
If you want to learn more about Roy Chapman Andrews, we recently made a whole episode about him: https://iknowdino.com/gravitholus-episode-402/
Editor’s note: Originally published in October 2022.