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Ermine Cowles Case


Paleontology at the University of Michigan has a long and distinguished tradition dating from 1837, when a "Cabinet of Natural History" was authorized at the first meeting of the Board of Regents. The first fossils acquired for the cabinet were collected on Isle Royale by Douglass Houghton, the first state geologist of Michigan and one of the first appointees to the faculty of the University. The Cabinet of Natural History was reorganized as a Museum in 1882. Paleontology at the University of Michigan dates to 1907 when Ermine Cowles Case was appointed Assistant Professor of Historical Geology. The Museum of Paleontology came into being with a separate budget in 1926, and with the dedication of the Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building in 1928. In 2018, the Museum moved from the Ruthven Museum to new state-of-the-art facilites, Biological Sciences Building and the Research Museums Center.

Written Histories

Several histories have been written about paleontology at the University of Michigan. The most comprehensive is by Lewis B. Kellum, published in 1956 as part of an encyclopedic survey of departments and programs at the University of Michigan:

Kellum, Lewis B. 1956. The Museum of Paleontology. In: W. A. Donnelly, W. B. Shaw, and R. W. Gjelsness (eds.), The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, Part VIII, Libraries, etc., University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp. 1487–1502. PDF

A later history covers the 35-year interval from 1940–1975:

Kesling, Robert V. 1975. History of the Museum of Paleontology, 1940–1975 (mimeographed). PDF

Professor Emeritus Robert V. Kesling died in 2005. Here is a brief memorial commemorating Professor Kesling's life and distinguished career as a paleontologist at Michigan. Many of his professional and scientific publications are available online in the University's Deep Blue archive.

Robert V. Kesling, LSA Faculty Meeting Minutes, University of Michigan, p. 12,050 (2007). PDF

A high point of the academic year is delivery of our annual Ermine Cowles Case Memorial Lecture, named for the first director of the Museum of Paleontology. Fifty-nine lectures have been delivered to date.

Fort Peck Montana 1938