Chapter 9. Amateurs and Fossil-Finding
The fossil-rich location on which your study of a paleoecosystem was
based was discovered by an amateur, Lorenzo Gordon Yates. He was not as will
known as another amateur fossil hunter, President Thomas Jefferson, but his
contribution to paleontology was important.
In 1867 Yates uncovered his first vertebrate fossils near the town of
Irvington. In the years that followed, he sent many fossils from the Irvington
area to paleontologists working in the eastern colleges. At this time no experts
in this science were on the West Coast.
Yates was so active in the field of natural history that no one has
understood how he managed to find time to practice his profession, dentistry.
The number of scientific societies he joined and to which he send original
observations is astonishing: the Linnean Society of London, the Geological
Society of America, the New Zealand Institute, the Anthropological Society of
Washington, the Agri-Horticultural Society of India, the Torrey Botanical Club
of New York, the California State Floral Society, the American Conchological
Society (shells), the Southern California Academy of Sciences, the Historical
Society of Southern California, the American Forestry Association, and so on! He
also belonged to professional dental societies.
Yates was not the only amateur to discover fossils near Irvington, but he
was the first, as far as anyone knows. More recent amateurs have continued the
Yates tradition of giving their discoveries to the authorities for study and for
protection. In this way, the richest mid-Pleistocene fossil collections in North
America were developed.
It should be emphasized that these amateur efforts could have come to
nothing to dead ends, as far as science is concerned. They became contributions
to paleontology and thus to ecology and paleoecology when discoveries were taken
to scientists. These people were capable of identifying the specimens and
reporting their findings in scientific journals do that the whole would could
know about them.
Thus, if you have a yen to make exciting contributions to science, try
fossil-hunting. In no field of scientific endeavor has the amateur contributed
more than in paleontology