Who Was Roy Chapman Andrews
“Always there has been an adventure just around the corner.”
Roy Chapman Andrews gained national fame as an explorer for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He began his career at the museum in 1906 by sweeping floors and assisting in the taxidermy department. By 1934 he had become the museum’s director.
Andrews is best remembered for the series of dramatic expeditions he led to the Gobi of Mongolia from 1922 to 1930. Andrews took a team of scientists into previously unexplored parts of the desert using some of the region’s first automobiles with extra supplies transported by camel caravan.
Andrews – for whom adventure and narrow escapes from death were a staple of exploring – is said to have served as inspiration for the Hollywood character “Indiana Jones.”
Andrews’s expeditions to the Gobi remain significant for, among other discoveries, their finds of the first nests of dinosaur eggs, new species of dinosaurs, and the fossils of early mammals that co-existed with dinosaurs.
These materials remain the subject of exhibits and study, and they inspired a new wave of exploration in the Gobi by the American Museum beginning in 1990.
“Born under a lucky star.”
Andrews developed his skills as a naturalist and marksman during childhood rambles in the nearby woods, fields, and waterways. He taught himself taxidermy and used money earned from that hobby to help pay for his education at Beloit College.
During his junior year of College, Andrews nearly drowned during a boating accident on the Rock River. His escape and subsequent knack for surviving adventures prompted Andrews to conjecture that he must have been “born under a lucky star.”
“We have shown the way.”
Andrews was forced to abandon field work in Asia after 1930, because of the region’s political instability and the financial challenges of the Great Depression. He retired as director of the American Museum in 1941. The famed explorer spent his retirement years writing and speaking about his career.
His books for young readers, particularly the title All About Dinosaurs, are credited with inspiring a new generation of scientists to follow him into fieldwork, including paleontologists now working in the Gobi.
Andrews died in California at age 76 on March 11, 1960. At his request, his remains were cremated and buried in the Chapman family plot in his hometown, Beloit Wisconsin.