Nebraska Authors

Morris F. Skinner

Born 1906-09-14 Springview, NE (USA)

Died 1989-12-15
Ainsworth, NE (USA)

Ainsworth, NE (USA)

Paleontologist Michael Voorhies, longtime professor of earth sciences at the University of Nebraska and one-time Skinner protégé has described his friend as "the premier bone-hunter of them all."

Morris F. Skinner and his hunting buddy, James H. Quinn attended high school in Ainsworth, Nebraska, where they encountered enthusiastic science teacher A.C. Whitford, himself a fossil hunter, a former assistant on the Nebraska State Geological Survey and fellow in the Department of Geology at the University of Nebraska. Skinner and his friend took to searching the canyons of Brown County for fossils. They made finds that attracted the attention of museums in Lincoln and in Denver, CO. The boys took breaks from fossil hunting by hiding behind rocks and taking near potshots at one-another with rifles (see McFadden, cited below). In 1927 the boys discovered a deposit of rhino bones that attracted the attention of Erwin H. Barbour of the Nebraska State Museum.

Skinner attended the University of Nebraska, studying with Barbour and graduating in 1932. Already known to have unusual talent as a fossil collector, he was hired by the Frick Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History and pursued a long career with the AMNH, living part of the year in New York, and spending the rest of the year collecting across the American West, with his Nebraska home as his base of operations.

Skinner was particularly known for painstaking and meticulous documentation of the rocks in which fossil specimens are discovered, for his ability to find great fossil specimens, sometimes in places where others had searched without much success, and for the sheer number of his finds. He is also remembered for important revisions of the understanding of the evolution of the horse, one of his favorite collecting subjects. McFadden's biographical sketch of Skinner for the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology notes that even 50 years later, "the biostratigraphic precision of the Skinner collections continues to make them a valuable resource for fine-scale evolutionary studies and they are the standard by which provenience data of other collections can be compared."

When the Frick Laboratory was folded into the over-all governance of the American Museum of Natural History, Skinner remained with the AMNH as Frick Associate Curator until his retirement in 1973.

The Society for Vertebrate Paleontology has a magnificent appreciation of Skinner by Bruce J. MacFadden (date September 2007), accessed on-line in 2018.
The Nebraska State Museum has an on-line biography titled "Morris Skinner--Nebraska's Premier Paleontologist."

Places Lived

Brown County, NE
Ainsworth, NE
New York, NY

Author Of

  • Nonfiction


Vertebrate Paleontology; Paleontologists; Fossil Collecting


Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology, 1932, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE


Fossil Hunter
Frick Associate Curator, American Museum of Natural History

Places Worked

Frick Laboratory of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY


The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology established the Morris F. Skinner Award in 1991 to recognize individuals "for outstanding and sustained contributions to scientific knowledge through the making of important collections of fossil vertebrates-it shall also be made to those persons who encourage, train, or teach others toward the same pursuits."


Jim Quinn
Mike Voorhies
Bruce J. MacFadden


Skinner contributed to numerous professional publications, not listed

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Morris F. Skinner

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