The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) of the Smithsonian Institution houses one of the world's major paleontological collections. In addition, museum curators have developed many innovative techniques for handling, processing, and interpreting fossils.
Scientists interviewed for the project included G. Arthur Cooper (1902-2000), who received a B.S. degree from Colgate University in 1924 with a major in chemistry and an M.S. in 1926. He was awarded a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1929 for his thesis on the stratigraphy of the Hamilton formation. In 1930 he was appointed Assistant Curator in the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology of the United States National Museum (USNM) and by 1957 assumed head curatorship of the Department of Geology, where he oversaw its division into separate departments of Paleobiology and Mineral Sciences in 1963. He continued as Chairman of the Department of Paleobiology until he was appointed Senior Paleobiologist in 1967. He retired from federal service in 1974 but continued his research as paleobiologist emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution until June 1987.
J. Thomas Dutro, Jr., (1923-2010) began his career as a geologist and paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1948. He received his A.B. from Oberlin College in 1948 and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Yale University in 1950 and 1953 respectively. He was stationed in the USGS offices in NMNH, and, in 1962, was appointed Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. His interests include the Paleozoic stratigraphy of Alaska and the western United States and the systematics of late Paleozoic Brachiopoda.
Richard E. Grant (1927-1995) received his B.A. in 1949 and M.S. in 1953 from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1958. From 1961 to 1972 he worked as a geologist and paleontologist with the USGS until he assumed the position of Chairman of the Department of Paleobiology at NMNH in 1972. In 1977 he was appointed Geologist in that department and in 1983 became Curator and Senior Geologist. His research interests include the brachiopods and stratigraphy of the Permian period.
Ellis L. Yochelson (1928-2006) was a paleontologist with the USGS from 1952 until his retirement in 1985. During those years he occupied an office in NMNH and in 1967 was appointed a Research Associate in the Department of Paleobiology. A specialist in extinct mollusks, concentrating on the evolution of gastropods, Dr. Yochelson received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. His research interests included the history of geology.