Joseph Mellick Leidy (1823-1891) was one of the original curators at the academy of natural sciences, and, a surgeon in the US civil war

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During an age, when scientific investigation, could still be done by motivated amateurs. That is, provided they had mental toughness, and financial backing. To travel and explore new and different areas. Some of it probably would have spooked the average. Still, someone had to study the extinct species that lived there.

Renowned for his significant contributions to various fields. Including paleontology, parasitology, and anatomy. American scientist Leidy, has been referred to as the “American vertebrate paleontology father”. Playing a critical role in identifying and describing numerous fossil species, making important contributions to our understanding of prehistoric life. He held academic positions at institutions like the University of Pennsylvania. Where he contributed to both research and teaching. Later he was a professor of natural history at Swarthmore College. And, after William Wagner’s death in 1885. The directorship of scientific and educational programs at the Wagner Free Institute of Science. His skills and expertise led to a large renovation. Today. Some of which are still in tact.

His father wanted him to be a sign painter instead of attending university
Graduating in 1844, instead,he ended up going to the university of Pennsylvania. For medicine. Women took serious interest in his work. He found one. Anna Harden. And, she would even help with his work on occasion. They hung out, worked together, and adopted a child. Alwinia.

He named first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton ever recovered. Hadrosaurus foulkii
He also described dire wolf aenocyon dirus, american lion pathera atrox, bear arctodus pristinus (links). His book Extinct Fauna of Dakota and Nebraska (1869) contained many species not previously described and many previously unknown on the North American continent. And, a rivalry developed between both students, other scientists, and universities.

Supporter of Charles Darwin
He lobbied for his membership in the academy of natural sciences. And, supported his theory of evolution too.

Leidy’s work extended beyond. He conducted research in other scientific areas too.
He became known for parasitology studies. In 1846, he showed that trichinosis (round worm food poisoning), was caused by a parasite in undercooked meat. He was also a pioneering protozoologist, publishing fresh-water Rhizopods of North America in 1879. A work that is still referenced today. He made significant contributions to the understanding of parasites and their life cycles.

Bison Antiquus (link)
Based on evidence from across the continent. In, 1852. Joseph identified the north american Bison Antiquus. This large and ancient herbavore bison. Was the most common during the neolithic age. Before modern times. He then also begin dominating vertebrate paleontology in Florida. With Angelo Heilprin, on a trip to west Florida. They discovered the first saber-toothed cat on the continent
Describing Smilodon (sabre tooth cats). And, other mega fauna species. Joseph was a legend.

Did you know: In 1848 he released the first thorough study on the human liver. Published as ‘the Comparative Anatomy of the Liver’. While at the university of Pennsylvania. And, in northwest Greenland. They named Leidy Glacier after Joseph.

Leidy’s legacy continues to influence the scientific community. His contributions are widely recognized in the fields of paleontology, parasitology, biology and more.

Robert Neff Keely, Gwilym George Davis, In Arctic Seas: the Voyage of the Kite with the Peary Expedition, 2011 p. 373

Warren, Leonard (October 11, 1998). Joseph Leidy: the last man who knew everything ( Yale University Press. p. 320.
ISBN 978-0-300-07359-1.

“Academy of Natural Sciences – Joseph Leidy – Fossil Species” ( Archived from the original (

“Joseph Leidy and Charles Darwin” ( Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences web site

Leidy, Joseph (1852a), “Bison antiquus”, Proceedings Academy of Natural Science, 6: 117

Leidy, Joseph (1852b), Memoir on the extinct species of American ox (

WHITE, MATTHEW A. (2015). “Science for All: The Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia” ( Pennsylvania
Legacies. 15 (1): 12–17. doi:10.5215/pennlega.15.1.0012 ( ISSN 1544-6360 (
JSTOR 10.5215/pennlega.15.1.0012 (

) (PDF). Bull. Fla. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45 (4): 143–170.

“The Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia – Museum – Joseph Leidy” (

“Joseph Leidy and Charles Darwin” ( Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences web site.

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