The Lesser-Known “Founding Five” of Paleontology

My diverse top 5 paleontologists everyone should know, but doesn’t

There are five lesser-known paleontologists I think everyone should know about. When we think of “founders” of paleontology, we recall greats such as Cuvier, Lyell, Darwin and Owen. However, we already know about these men and their contributions, which I agree are significant. Instead, I have chosen five mostly overlooked or forgotten people we should also consider among the “founders” of paleontology.

I call this group my “Founding Five.” They made long-lasting impacts to paleontology that are still felt today. My founders are paleontologists that illustrate the science’s early diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, and LGBQT status.

Who are my five founders? It would be too easy to tell you all of them right away, and I don’t want this blog to turn into another listicle (sigh).

I will reveal each Founder one-by-one followed by a post or series of posts about that individual’s contributions to paleontology, how they were impacted by bias and discrimination, and other interesting stories about them. 

The first individual in my “Founding Five” is…

 Mary Anning

Founding five paleontologists showing Mary Anning but the other four people hidden

Mary’s contributions to paleontology were foundational, and she shaped our thinking of deep time, evolution, and extinction. While she is probably the most famous of historical women paleontologists (there’s even a movie out now about her), I still want to tell her story.

Anning directly influenced several of the “founding fathers” of geology and paleontology. In her own words, she was “famous throughout all of Europe”, and even Charles Dickens wrote an obituary for her!1

There is so much about Mary and her life that I find fascinating, and I hope to do her justice in my writing.

Just as a heads up, these main blog posts take some time to research and write, so expect Mary’s story in about 2 weeks. Until then, I will start a series of smaller posts I’m calling “Micro Musings” which will fill the gaps in between my main narrative posts. These Micro Musings will go up every other week, so you can expect a post in some format around every Friday.

Feel free to drop me a line and let me know your guesses for my  other four founders, or if you have someone you think would be on your “Founding Five.”


  1. Emling, S. (2009). The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.

15 thoughts on “The Lesser-Known “Founding Five” of Paleontology

  1. Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!


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