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Paleontologist Jack Horner earns lifetime achievement award

Published On: Oct 30 2013 10:28:19 AM MDT
Jack Horner

Montana State University

BOZEMAN, Mont. -

The following is a news release from Montana State University.

Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner has won the highest honor given by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The Regents Professor of Paleontology and Curator of Paleontology at MSU’s Museum of the Rockies will receive the Romer-Simpson Medal on Saturday, Nov. 2, for “sustained and outstanding scholarly excellence and service to the discipline of vertebrate paleontology.”

The lifetime achievement award will be presented in Los Angeles during the SVP’s 73rd annual meeting. The organization, which is also honoring filmmaker Steven Spielberg this year, has more than 2,300 members, including professional paleontologists, students, artists, preparators and others interested in vertebrate paleontology.

“I certainly don't feel as if I'm nearing the end of my work, but I am greatly honored that others think I've accomplished enough to deserve such a thing,” said Horner, 67. “I just hope no one expects me to slow down.”

Horner’s nomination was supported by many high-level paleontologists, including the following in the United States, England and Canada.

"It is difficult to imagine someone who, rising from such considerable obstacles, has achieved so much, given back so much to the profession, stimulated so much new investigation, and supported so many younger colleagues and students,” Horner’s long-time collaborator Kevin Padian wrote in his nomination letter. Padian is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Hans-Dieter Sues, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said, “All of us concerned with the study of Mesozoic vertebrates stand in awe of the quantity and quality of dinosaurian and other Mesozoic vertebrate remains that Jack and his field crews have recovered from Montana and neighboring regions since the 1980s."

Angela Milner, scientific associate at The Natural History Museum in London, wrote, “Jack’s monumental and intensive fieldwork programme has been the stimulus for a revolution in understanding of dinosaur biology based on his Montana discoveries of, to mention just one example, nesting sites, nests, eggs and juveniles of Maiasaura.”

David Evans, curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, wrote, “I am part of the young generation of paleontologists that has been directly inspired by Jack Horner. Because of his passion for the field and his dedication to public outreach, Jack was one of my scientific heroes growing up.”

The fact that Horner and Spielberg are both being honored this year was a complete coincidence, said SVP President Catherine Forster, noting that they were selected by two separate committees. Spielberg, who will be unable to attend the ceremony, won the 2013 Gregory Service Award for contributing to the welfare of the SVP.  He directed the Jurassic Park movies, for which Horner was scientific consultant.

Horner’s award is named after two scientists who contributed much to the field of vertebrate paleontology. Alfred Sherwood Romer founded the SVP and served as its first president. He was the leading contributor to the discipline of vertebrate paleontology throughout the 20th century. George Gaylord Simpson played a vital role in developing an understanding of the intercontinental migration of extinct mammals and produced a massive classification system for mammals.