Saturday, November 19, 2005

Born This Day: Björn Kurtén & Rainer Zangerl

Nov. 19, 1924 - Dec. 28, 1988.

From Kurtén's bio from HERE:

Along with George Gaylord Simpson in America, Björn Kurtén was the founding father of an important scientific movement that united Darwinian theory with empirical studies of fossil vertebrates. He was also a leading student of fossil bears - and by chance his first name Björn means "bear" in his native Swedish.

From 1955 to 1972 Kurtén was lecturer at the University of Helsinki. He was also a researcher at the University of Florida, a visiting professor at the University of Harvard (1971-71) and a professor at the University of Helsinki from 1972 to 1988. In Spain and Tunisia Kurtén participated in scientific excavations. Kurtén received several awards from his popular scientific works, including Unesco's Kalinga Award.

Among Kurtén major scientific publications are his dissertation, ON THE VARIATION AND POPULATION DYNAMICS OF FOSSIL AND RECENT MAMMAL POPULATIONS (1953), PLEISTOCENE MAMMALS OF EUROPE (1968), published in the same year in Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Holland, and PLEISTOCENE MAMMALS OF NORTH AMERICA (1980). INTE FRÅN APORNA (1971) was also translated into several languages. In 1988 appeared ON EVOLUTION AND FOSSIL MAMMALS, a collection of earlier studies.

Kurtén was also a writer of popular science fiction books about ancient men including, DEN SVARTA TIGERN (1978, Dance of the Tiger) and MAMMUTENS RÅDARE (1982, Singletusk). Kurtén received several awards from his popular scientific works, including Unesco's Kalinga Award.

Portrait from HERE. Book from HERE.

Rainer Zangerl Nov. 19, 1912 - Dec. 27, 2004

From his obituary:

During a scientific career that spanned six decades, Zangerl was always ready to share his enthusiasm for fossil turtles and sharks with colleagues, friends, and museum goers of all ages. Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, he received a PhD from the University of Zurich under the direction of his mentor, Professor Bernhard Peyer. In 1937, he moved to the United States and married Anna Johanna Kurz, who joined him on many fossil-hunting expeditions throughout the United States.

Zangerl spent much of his career at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, first as Curator of Fossil Reptiles and then as Chairman of the Geology Department. Along with his friend and colleague Eugene Richardson, he made major discoveries of fossil sharks in Parke County, Indiana, during the 1950’s and 60’s.

In 2003, Dr. Zangerl was recognized by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, of which he was a founding member and president, with its highest honor, the Romer-Simpson Medal.