Rainer Zangerl birthday

by Anonymous on Nov. 19th, 2009

Today is the birthday of paleontologist Rainer Zangerl born 1912 in Winterthur Switzerland. Zangerl’s career spanned over 6 decades, much of it working for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where he served many years as Curator of Fossil Reptiles and later as Curator of Fossil Fish, and as Chairman of the Geology Department. He specialized in fossil and extant turtles and prehistoric sharks. His volume for “Handbook of Paleoichthyology” (3A) dealing with Paleozoic sharks is considered a classic study of the ancient predatory fish. In the early 1950s, Zangerl discovered an exposure of Pennsylvania black shale rich in fossil fish in nearby Indiana, and spent many years studying and documenting the find. Dr. Zangerl was an expert in comparative anatomy, highly-skilled in x-ray photography, and a founding member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which awarded him its highest honor, the Romer-Simpson Medal in 2003.

Dr. Bruce Erickson, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s curator of paleontology worked several years with Zangerl at the Field Museum. “He was my boss, my mentor, and good friend,” he told me. “I even named a couple fossil turtles after him.”

(My own life intersected with Dr. Zangerl's in the early 1960s. When I was about 10 years old and in the early throes of my fascination with dinosaurs, I dragged a bag of bones all the way from Duluth to Chicago with hopes of having someone at the Field Museum confirm my suspicions they were from a stegosaurus. A road crew had unearthed the bones down the hill from our neighborhood and they let me take home as many as I wanted. The remains included ribs and teeth, vertebrae, femurs and tibias (I’m seen holding one in my avatar photo). When we got to the Field Museum my mom was surprised I had brought the bones along, but she was a good sport about it and asked someone if we could have the “fossils” identified. We were sent up to the second floor to meet with someone from the paleontology department. There, an older gentleman carefully studied my collection of bones until finally he picked out a tooth, held it up, and said in a thick German accent: “You’ve got yourself a horse.” It was Dr. Zangerl.

According to my mother my response was a very disappointed: “Oh, shucks.”)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Bruce C. Lampright's picture
Bruce C. Lampright says:

those who pass on knowledge are true national treasures......Dr. Erickson was my hero and mentor back in the late 60's when I had the great privilege of volunteering in his paleo lab at SMM.......also my days in the field with him will never be forgotten.......years later we reunited in South Carolina, where I was working as a marine biologist.......we were again able to collect some great fossil croc specimens together.....I will do my best to pass on this Zangerl legacy just like Bruce Erickson

posted on Sat, 03/01/2014 - 10:57am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options