Joseph A. Simpson (1869-1949)
Simpson's father was born in Chicago where he studied and practiced law; he moved to Denver as a claims adjuster for the Colorado & Southern Railroad, later promoting land, irrigation, and mining ventures in Utah and Colorado, none of which was very successful. He eventually became a trial examiner for the Federal Trade Commission in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., later moving to Los Angeles in retirement where he died.
Helen J. Kinney (1870-1960)
Simpson's mother was born in Honolulu and, after her mother's death, raised there by her grandparents who were lay missionaries. She graduated from Oberlin College and married Joseph Simpson in 1891, with whom she had three children: Margaret (1895), Martha (1898), and George (1902). She later cared for Simpson's young daughters during his marital troubles. She died at age 90 in an Albuquerque nursing home.
Margaret A. Simpson (1895-1991)
Simpson's sister Peg left home as a teenager, married John Bothwell and had a son, Jack, who was adopted by her second husband Duncan McLaurin. Peg's third husband was Donald Peck. Seven years older than her brother, and having left home when he was still quite young, Peg wasn't at all close to Simpson. Peg died in a nursing home in Glendale, Calif.
Martha H. Simpson (1898-1984)
Simpson's sister Martha was his closest confidant until he married Anne Roe. Martha studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, lived several years in France and Hawaii, taught at the Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma, and had a successful ceramic business in Los Angeles during World War II. She married a writer, William Eastlake--19 years her junior--in 1943, and divorced him in the early 1970s.
Lydia Pedroja (1900 (?) -1988)
Simpson first met Lydia at the University of Colorado, and later in 1922 when he was at Yale and she was studying anthropology at Barnard College in New York. They secretly married in February, 1923, but almost immediately had domestic troubles, in part owing to Lydia's mental problems, yet managed to have four daughters in six years. They separated in 1930 and were divorced in 1938.
Helen F. Simpson (b. 1923)
The eldest of Simpson's four daughters; she was in Simpson's custody during his long embattled separation from Lydia. She married Wolf Vishniac with whom she had three sons; Vishniac was killed in an Antarctic accident in 1973. Helen earned a PhD in Biology from Columbia in 1950, and is a professor emerita of microbiology at Oklahoma State.
Patricia Gaylord Simpson (1926-1958)
Known as "Gay" in the family, she had a congenital heart ailment, owing to which she spent most of her youth in the care of her maternal grandmother in Buffalo, Kansas. She had a degree in library science and, recently married, was working at the University of Michigan when she died of a brain abcess. Her life in Kansas spared her much of her parents' domestic problems.
(Lydia) Joan Simpson (b. 1927)
The third daughter who, with her sister Elizabeth, bore the greatest burden of the marital problems of their parents. As an editor and author, she published a number of books, among them "The Awkward Embrace" in 1975, about the "institutionalization of American culture." She had two children from a short marriage to A. L. Meyers and subsequently married James MacGregor Burns at Williams College. She continues to live in Williamstown.
Elizabeth Léonie Simpson (b. 1928)
The youngest of the Simpson children, Elizabeth earned her PhD in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. She has written novels (including one based on her maternal grandmother and grandfather), a book documenting her successful battle in overcoming tubercular meningitis ("Notes on an Emergency"), and articles on "humanistic education." She has three children from a former marriage and currently resides with her husband, John Wurr, in northern California.
Anne Roe (1904-1991)
Raised on the same street in Denver as Simpson. Anne received her PhD in psychology from Columbia University. She and Simpson became romantically involved in the 1930s and, after divorcing their first spouses, married in 1938. Anne was a distinguished clinical psychologist, becoming the first female full professor at Harvard's School of Education.
Arthur J. Tieje (1891-1944)
Geology instructor at University of Colorado who suggested to Simpson that he transfer to Yale for the best paleontological education. Tieje himself left Colorado and, after a few years in the oil industry, joined the University of Southern California where he became geology department head. Simpson considered Tieje a major early influence in his professional development.
Richard Swan Lull (1867-1957)
Simpson's thesis advisor at Yale, and director of the Peabody Museum, which contained the Marsh Collection that included the Mesozoic mammals that Simpson studied for his dissertation. Lull wrote a widely used textbook, "Organic Evolution" (1917, 1929), on which Simpson cut his paleontological teeth. Lull was a Darwinian, but uncertain about the role of natural selection in evolution. According to Simpson, Lull infused "life into the bones ... the whole fauna, flora, and landscape of the distant past." Simpson later remarked that "Lull was considered a great authority on evolutionary theory--and he was, in the sense of being well informed on the ideas, old and new, in this field. He never had an original idea of his own about theories of evolution, but just expounded everyone's views as if all were equal. That was very useful to me only in telling me what the established alternatives were and what to read"
Arthur Tindell Hopwood (1897-1969)
Simpson's closest friend while at the British Museum in 1926-27. A student of fossil mammals, he was one of the first to work at Olduvai Gorge. In 1933 he coined the name "Proconsul"--after the famous London zoo ape "Consul"--for a Miocene African ape related to our early human ancestors. Simpson said that he and Hopwood drifted apart about the time "Arthur T. became A. Tindell."
William Diller Matthew (1871-1930)
Born in Canada, Matthew received his PhD in "hard rock" geology at Columbia in 1895, but also did some paleontological reconnaissance for H.F. Osborn at the American Museum. He then joined the AMNH where he remained until 1927 when he went to University of California, Berkeley. Matthew worked on Tertiary mammals and is best known for his 1915 classic, "Climate and Evolution." In the summer of 1924, Simpson spent a month in the field in Texas with Matthew and, despite their age differences, each impressed the other. Thereafter, Matthew was an important influence on Simpson who took his place at AMNH in the fall of 1927 when Matthew left for Berkeley.
Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935)
Osborn was president of the American Museum from 1908-1933, and Simpson's first boss.Owing to his intellectual and financial resources as well as his dynamic leadership, Osborn created an institution of singular distinction. He thought his "aristogenetic" drive for perfection explained evolution better than Darwinian natural selection. R.S. Lull, Simpson's doctoral advisor at Yale,was one of his PhD students.
William King Gregory (1876-1970)
Gregory formally joined the AMNH in 1911, after taking his Ph.D. at Columbia under Osborn. Following a suggestion by Gregory, Simpson wrote one of his "two door-opening papers" that led to his more explicit consideration of the principles of classification and evolutionary theory. Gregory was a Darwinian and openly debated Osborn in his support of the important role of natural selection. Gregory's influence on Simpson is evident in his memorial to Gregory, whose scientific interests were very broad. Several overlapped with those of Simpson's, including mammalian classification, Mesozoic mammals, evolution of mammalian dentition, and functional anatomy. According to Simpson, "Gregory was a pioneer in the study of the anatomy of parts of animals, both recent and fossil, not merely in a descriptive way but with primary consideration for their functions in the lives of whole, living organisms."
Horace Scarritt (1893?-1949)
Wealthy New York investment broker who bankrolled Simpson's field expeditions to South America (1930-31, 1933-34) and Montana (1932) during the lean years of the Great Depression, which "took some persuasion and more than a few drinking bouts. ... I only regret that I have but one liver to lose for my museum." Simpson named a fossil species of a South American hoofed-herbivore after his benefactor, Scarrittia canquelensis.
Walter Granger (1872-1941)
Without much formal education, Granger worked his way up from taxidermist to curator of fossil mammals at the AMNH. More a field man and collector, he participated in expeditions to Fayum, Egypt, with H. F. Osborn and to Central Asia with Roy Chapman Andrews. An avuncular figure for junior colleagues at AMNH like Simpson and Colbert. He often ran interference for Simpson from his estranged wife when she tried to badger him at the museum.
Edwin ("Ned") H. Colbert (1905-2002)
Colbert started out in fossil mammals, but later switched to fossil amphibians and reptiles. He was always in the shadow of a "great man," first as Osborn's assistant, then as Simpson's colleague in the dept. of vertebrate paleontology at the AMNH. Simpson was better known as a researcher, but Colbert was the much better teacher. He became dept. chairman in 1958, when Simpson had a dispute with director Albert Parr. Colbert held a professorship at Columbia and for many years taught courses on vertebrate paleontology at the museum. He was also a prolific author of texts and popular books on vertebrate paleontology, and on the history and evolution of dinosaurs. Colbert wrote an interesting and more personally revealing autobiography than Simpson's, entitled, "A Fossil Hunter's Notebook" (1980). Upon retirement Colbert became associated with the Museum of Northern Arizona. He wife, Margaret, the daughter of W.D. Matthew, was an accomplished scientific illustrator of paleontology.
Albert E. Parr (1901-1991)
Born and raised in Norway, with PhD from Yale. An authority on oceanic fishes, he became director of the AMNH in 1942. Introduced as the "new broom," he reorganized the museum departments, including disbanding the department of vertebrate paleontology, much to Simpson's chagrin. The reorganization was later reversed and Simpson became chairman of the Department of Geology and Paleontology when he returned from military duty in 1944. In 1958, Parr suggested to Simpson that he step down as department chairman, arguing that Simpson wasn't fully meeting his responsibilities owing to his slow recovery from his Brazil accident as well as his frequent absences from the museum because of his many travels. Simpson resigned the chairmanship in anger and the following year took an Agassiz Professorship at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Parr himself was eased out of the directorship at the AMNH in 1959. Colbert, who was often acting chairman of the department during Simpson's absences, became chairman upon Simpson's resignation.
Paul McGrew (1909-1983)
Vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Wyoming who enjoyed hunting, fishing, and a friendly drink almost as much as his fossil mammals. He and Bryan Patterson (at Harvard) were the only colleagues with whom Simpson could truly relax, usually with a bottle, possibly because neither let Simpson's fame get in the way of genuinely felt fellowship.
Bryan Patterson (1909-1979)
Student of fossil mammals, including those of South America, who went to MCZ at Harvard after a long association with the Chicago Field Museum. Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, he made two unsuccessful escapes from prison camp, but eventually was rescued by advancing Allies. Another drinking buddy of Simpson's.
Alfred Sherwood Romer (1894-1973)
Master of the anatomical approach to the study of fossil vertebrates, particularly Permo-Triassic reptiles. President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in its founding year in 1940, and author of a classic textbook in vertebrate paleontology that went through three editions over 30 years. Romer was Director of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology when Simpson joined the MCZ in 1959.
Llewellyn Price (1905-1980)
Native-born Brazilian of American missionary parents. Educated in the U.S., Price later became Romer's assistant, first at Chicago, then the AMNH, as collector and illustrator. Eventually returned to Brazil's Division of Geology and Mineralogy for which he did extensive collecting. He collaborated with Simpson on several projects, including the 1956 Brazil expedition up the Juruá river.
George Whitaker (dates unknown)
Simpson's loyal and devoted laboratory and field assistant at the AMNH. He was with Simpson in Brazil in 1956 and his experience as a medical corpsman during World War II literally saved Simpson's life. He provided emergency treatment on the compound fracture of Simpson's right leg and paddled downstream for several days and nights to get Simpson to an airfield where he could be evacuated back to New York.
John Germann (d. 1946)
AMNH artist who did the art work for "Tempo and Mode in Evolution" and other Simpson publications. He was just one of many on the AMNH staff who gave loyal, behind-the-scenes support for Simpson's many research activities.