Roy Chapman Andrews

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Roy Chapman Andrews

Chinese: 安得思
Birthplace: Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States
Death: March 11, 1960 (76)
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, United States
Place of Burial: Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Ezra Andrews and Cora May Andrews
Husband of Wilhelmina Anderson Andrews
Ex-husband of Yvette Huen Andrews
Father of George Borup Andrews and Roy Kevin Andrews
Brother of Ethelyn M Andrews

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About Roy Chapman Andrews

Roy Chapman Andrews was an American explorer, adventurer and naturalist who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History. He is primarily known for leading a series of expeditions through the fragmented China of the early 20th century into the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. The expeditions made important discoveries and brought the first-known fossil dinosaur eggs to the museum.

He was an explorer, zoologist and author who led expeditions to North Korea, China, Burma and Outer Mongolia. He was the world's authority on whales.

Roy Chapman Andrews

(born Jan. 26, 1884, Beloit, Wis., U.S. — died March 11, 1960, Carmel, Calif.) U.S. naturalist, explorer, and author. In 1906 he joined the staff of the American Museum of Natural History, where he would spend much of his working life. There he assembled one of the best collections of cetaceans in the world before turning his attention to Asiatic exploration. He led expeditions to the Tibet region, southwestern China, and Burma (1916 – 17); northern China and Outer Mongolia (1919); and Central Asia. Important discoveries included the first known dinosaur eggs, skeleton parts of Baluchitherium (the largest known land mammal), and evidence of prehistoric human life. His many books for the general public include Across Mongolian Plains (1921) and This Amazing Planet (1940).

Roy Chapman Andrews was born in Beloit, Wis., on Jan. 26, 1884. Fascinated by the natural wonders of southern Wisconsin, he chose his life's work at an early age. Immediately upon his graduation from Beloit College in 1906, he went to New York to seek employment at the American Museum of Natural History, volunteering to scrub floors when no other positions were available.

He assisted in the taxidermy department of the museum and soon received a field assignment to bring in the skeleton of a whale beached on Long Island. This initiated his scientific investigations of whales, and he was soon established as the world's leading whale authority. In his pursuit of these and other studies, Andrews traveled to Alaska, the East Indies, Japan, and Korea. He identified large "devilfish" off the Korean coast as the California gray whale, then considered an extinct species.

After 1915 Andrews concentrated on land explorations; his initial foray had been into the dense northern forests of Korea, but his dream was to test the theory of Henry Fairfield Osborn that central Asia was the home of primitive man and the source of much of the animal life of Europe and America. This work began in 1916 with a small zoological expedition to the periphery of the central Asian plateau in southwestern China and Burma. After a delay caused by World War I, during which Andrews served in Peking for the naval intelligence service, the youthful explorer returned to the United States to plan and finance his ambitious decade-long project. Andrews presented his project as a new type of exploration, a mammoth cooperative venture of various sciences, utilizing innovative techniques, including automobiles for desert exploration. He got the necessary financial support and set out in 1921.

He repeatedly led teams into the less-known portions of China, Borneo, and central Asia. He gained world fame because of his dramatic expeditions into the Gobi Desert, which led to the discovery of rich fossil fields, new geological strata, the first dinosaur eggs known to science, and skeleton parts of some of the largest and oldest known mammals, including the huge Baluchitherium and the tiny Protoceratops andrewsi. Political turmoil and another war stopped Andrews's Asian exploration in 1930. Two years later, after writing a full report of these expeditions, The New Conquest of Central Asia, he entered museum administration.

Andrews had taken a master's degree from Columbia University in 1913; he received honorary doctorates from Brown University in 1926 and Beloit College in 1928. He served as director of the American Museum of Natural History from 1935 to 1942, then devoted the rest of his life to writing and lecturing. A spellbinding lecturer and storyteller, he relished his popular image as a romantic explorer, but claimed that life was really more dangerous in American cities than in the Gobi Desert. He died in Carmel, Calif., on March 11, 1960.

Further Reading

The best sources on Andrews are his own voluminous writings, particularly his autobiographical works: This Business of Exploring (1935); Under a Lucky Star: A Lifetime of Adventure (1943); An Explorer Comes Home: Further Adventures of Roy Chapman Andrews (1947); and Beyond Adventure: The Lives of Three Explorers (1954). The secondary sources are meager. Fitzhugh Green, Roy Chapman Andrews, Dragon Hunter (1930), is the only biography. Henry Chester Tracy, American Naturists (1930), repeats Andrews's own writings. Geoffrey Hellman, Bankers, Bones and Beetles: The First Century of the American Museum of Natural History (1969), recounts Andrews's association with the museum.

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Roy Chapman Andrews's Timeline

January 26, 1884
Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States
December 26, 1917
January 20, 1924
Beijing, Beijing, China
March 11, 1960
Age 76
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, United States
Oakwood Cemetery, Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States