The Greatest Avian Paleontologist You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
May 28, 2019 12:46 PM   Subscribe

"Hildegarde Howard, (1901-1998) wasn’t the least bit interested in pursuing a career in science. That was, until her first biology class at UCLA where she was inspired by her teacher, Pirie Davidson. She then immersed herself in the subject and obtained a part-time job at the (then) Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art sorting bones from the La Brea Tar Pits."

"When Hildegarde Howard began attending the Southern Branch of the University of California (now known as the University of California at Los Angeles), women were still barred from scientific societies. She was born on April 3, 1901 in Washington D.C., but moved to Los Angeles at the age of 5. Her main interest was journalism, until she met her first biology instructor, Miss Pirie Davidson." (Letters from Gondwana)

"Dr. Hildegarde Howard, one of the Museum's most famous paleontologists of the 20th century, began her long association with the Museum in 1921 as a curator of science. In 1953, she was the first woman to be awarded the American Ornithologists Union's prestigious Brewster Medal for her research in the field of avian paleontology, particularly for her work with the fossil birds of Rancho La Brea. In 1961, Dr. Howard retired from her position as chief curator of science and continued her involvement with the Museum as a volunteer through 1990." (Natural History Museum, Hildegarde Howard Society page)

(Following is a small and poor selection of badly scanned papers that aren't locked behind immoral pay walls)

A List of The Extinct Fossil Birds of California

The Prehistoric Avifauna of Smith Creek Cave, Nevada, with a Description of a New Gigantic Raptor

A gigantic "toothed" marine bird from the Miocene of California, by Hildegard Howard.
posted by thatwhichfalls (2 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
How cool, thank you for posting this. That Trowelblazers site is a great find.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:38 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]

Very awesome to learn about her. I found this particularly cool: "Her dissertation research, entitled “The Avifauna of Emoryville Shellmound,” is still widely consulted today, partly because of its detailed anatomical drawings."
posted by mixedmetaphors at 2:43 PM on May 28 [6 favorites]

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