Roy Chapman Andrews

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Roy Chapman Andrews

Birthplace: Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States
Death: Died in California, USA
Place of Burial: Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States
Immediate Family:

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

Managed by: Private User
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About Roy Chapman Andrews

Roy Chapman Andrews (January 26, 1884 – March 11, 1960) 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.

Early life and education

Andrews was born on January 26, 1884, in Beloit, Wisconsin. As a child, he explored forests, fields, and waters nearby, developing marksmanship skills. He taught himself taxidermy and used funds from this hobby to pay tuition to Beloit College. After graduating, Andrews applied for work at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He so much wanted to work there that after being told that there were no openings at his level, Andrews took a job as a janitor in the taxidermy department and began collecting specimens for the museum. During the next few years, he worked and studied simultaneously, earning a Master of Arts degree in mammalogy from Columbia University.


From 1909 to 1910, Andrews sailed on the USS Albatross to the East Indies, collecting snakes and lizards and observing marine mammals. In 1913, he sailed aboard the schooner Adventuress with owner John Borden to the Arctic. They were hoping to obtain a bowhead whale specimen for the American Museum of Natural History. On this expedition, he filmed some of the best footage of seals ever seen, though did not succeed in acquiring a whale specimen.

He married Yvette Borup in 1914. From 1916 to 1917, Andrews and his wife led the Asiatic Zoological Expedition of the museum through much of western and southern Yunnan, as well as other provinces of China. The book Camps and Trails in China records their experiences.

In 1920, Andrews began planning for expeditions to Mongolia and drove a fleet of Dodge cars westward from Peking. In 1922, the party discovered a fossil of Indricotherium (then named "Baluchitherium"), a gigantic hornless rhinoceros, which was sent back to the museum, arriving on December 19. In the 1920s, he went to Mongolia, hoping to find out something about the origin of man. He didn't find out anything about man, but he discovered a treasure trove of dinosaur bones. During four expeditions in the Gobi Desert between 1922 and 1925, he discovered Protoceratops, a nest of Protoceratops eggs (later studies revealed them to be Oviraptor eggs), Pinacosaurus, Saurornithoides, Oviraptor and Velociraptor, none of which were known before.

Andrews along with Henry Fairfield Osborn were proponents of the Asia hypothesis and led several expeditions to Asia from 1922 to 1928 known as the “Cental Asiatic Expeditions” setting out to try and find the earliest human remains in Asia, however Andrews and his team found many other finds, such as dinosaurs bones and fossil mammals and most notably the first known dinosaur nests full of eggs (see below). Andrews main account of these expeditions can be found in his book The new conquest of cental Asia.

In Andrews book in 1926 On the Trail of the Ancient Man, Henry Fairfield Osborn noted in the preface that the birthplace of modern humans would be found in Asia and that he had predicted it decades earlier even before the Asiatic expeditions were carried out.

On July 13, 1923, the party was the first in the world to discover dinosaur eggs. Initially thought to belong to the ceratopsian Protoceratops, they were determined in 1995 actually to belong to the theropod Oviraptor. Walter W. Granger discovered a skull from the Cretaceous period. In 1925, the museum sent a letter back informing the party that the skull was that of a mammal, and therefore rare and valuable; more were uncovered. Expeditions in the area stopped during 1926 and 1927. In 1928, the expedition's finds were seized by Chinese authorities but were eventually returned. The 1929 expedition was cancelled. In 1930, he made one final trip and discovered some mastodon fossils. A cinematographer, James B. Shackelford, made filmed records of many of Andrews' expeditions. (Sixty years after Andrews' initial expedition, the American Museum of Natural History returned to Mongolia on the invitation of its government to continue exploration.) Later that year, Andrews returned to the United States and divorced his wife, with whom he had two sons.

In 1927, the Boy Scouts of America made Andrews an Honorary Scout, a new category of Scout created that same year. This distinction was given to "American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys...".

Andrews joined the Explorers Club in New York in 1908, four years after its founding. He later served as its President from 1931 to 1934. In 1934, Andrews became the director of the museum. In his 1935 book The Business of Exploring, he wrote "I was born to be an explorer...There was never any decision to make. I couldn't do anything else and be happy." In 1942, Andrews retired to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where he wrote about his life and died in 1960. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in his hometown of Beloit.

"Indiana Jones" connection

Douglas Preston of the American Museum of Natural History wrote:

Andrews is allegedly the real person that the movie character of Indiana Jones was patterned after. Andrews was an accomplished stage master. He created an image and lived it out impeccably—there was no chink in his armor. Roy Chapman Andrews: famous explorer, dinosaur hunter, exemplar of Anglo-Saxon virtues, crack shot, fighter of Mongolian brigands, the man who created the metaphor of 'Outer Mongolia' as denoting any exceedingly remote place.

Although some sources speculate that Andrews was the inspiration for Indiana Jones, neither George Lucas nor the other creators of the films have ever confirmed this. Other candidates have been suggested, including Colonel Percy Fawcett. The 120-page transcript of the story conferences for the movie does not mention Andrews. An analysis by the Smithsonian Channel concludes that the linkage was indirect, with Andrews (and other explorers) serving as the model for heroes in adventure films of the 1940s and 1950s, who in turn inspired Lucas and his fellow writers.


Roy Chapman Andrews (January 26, 1884 – March 11, 1960) 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. His popular writings about his adventures made him famous.


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
Age 33
January 20, 1924
Age 39
Beijing, Beijing, China
March 11, 1960
Age 76
California, USA
Beloit, Rock, Wisconsin, United States