The oddity of Henry Fairfield Osborn

The Prerogative of Harlots blog dredges up an eccentric museum head from the dim past:

Osborne, as he appeared while alive.

Histories of vertebrate paleontology at Yale tends to dwell heavily on the feuding between Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, but I actually find the later stages of this conflict, involving AMNH‘s megalomaniacal president Henry Fairfield Osborn, even more fascinating.

AMNH curator Ned Colbert used to describe HFO as “one of the most unpleasant people I ever met,” and in truth it’s hard to find much to like. At a personal level, he was insufferably pompous – he used to require underlings to vacate the museum’s elevator cars so that he could ride in solitude and he once stopped George Gaylord Simpson from blotting his signature on a letter with the injunction “never blot a great man’s signature.” It seems almost gratuitous to note that he was also a die-hard racist and a great admirer of Adolf Hitler.