Henry Fairfield Osborn

by I.H.

24 April 2005

[text from Instauration, February 1998]

The name of Henry Fairfield Osborn is obscure to most Americans, and controversial to those few who remember him as a founding member of the American Eugenics Society[1] (1922). Author of a book on evolution, From the Greeks to Darwin, he was an avid partisan of the movement to restrict immigration. Once, while referring to the results of intelligence testing carried out by the Army during WWI, he stated:

I believe those tests were worth what the war cost, even in human life, if they served to show clearly to our people the lack of intelligence in our country, and the degree of intelligence in different races who are coming to us, in a way which no one can say is the result of prejudice.... We have learned once and for all that the Negro is not like us.

Years before, as a member of the Faculty Committee on Outdoor Sports and Professor of Comparative Anatomy at Princeton, he donated the money for the construction of what came to be known to generations of Princeton athletes as The Osborn Clubhouse.

Today it serves as home base for The Third World Center[2], created in 1971 when University trustees decided to admit racial minorities to this last great bulwark of Angloism. Once a great, elitist school, Princeton now suffers the ignominious fate of being on a cultural par with Trenton and Camden to the south and New Bunswick and Newark to the north.

In the centuries of its existence before minorities were embraced, Princeton proudly guarded its magnificent campus of neo-Gothic chapels, leafy quadrangles and inspired residential buildings that were symbolic testaments to a racial ethos. With the Anglo tradition greatly diminished, few among the minorities who attend Princeton and tramp through The Third World Center know of the insult which has been delivered to Henry Fairfield Osborn. And to us.


More information:

Henry Fairfield Osborn was a student of Cope. He was instrumental in expanding the exhibits and research program at the American Museum of Natural History. He led many fossil hunting expeditions in the American West and trained many of the vertebrate paleontologists in the early 20th century.

Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935, American paleontologist and geologist, b. Fairfield, Conn. He was professor of comparative anatomy (1883-90) at Princeton, and professor of biology (1891-96) and of zoology (1896-1910) at Columbia, where he was also dean of the faculty of pure science (1892-95). From 1891 he was associated with the American Museum of Natural History and formed one of the world's foremost collections of vertebrate fossils. Under his presidency (1908-33) the museum's scientific staff, facilities, and endowments were greatly expanded. He joined the U.S. Geological Survey as vertebrate paleontologist in 1900 and became (1924) senior geologist. His voluminous writings include general works on evolution and over 500 technical papers on paleontology.


1. The American Eugenics Society was founded in 1926 by Harry Crampton, Harry H. Laughlin, Madison Grant, and Henry Fairfield Osborn with the express purpose of spearheading the eugenical movement. With a peak membership of around 1,250 in 1930, the AES worked at both the scientific and popular levels, becoming a highly effective organization at disseminating practical and scientific information on genetic health, drawing attention to eugenics, and promoting eugenical research. More here.

2. Now the "Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding." Here's a page of the sort of films kept by the center. Yoga classes are offered every Tuesday and Friday evening in "Liberation Hall/Aztlan Lounge."

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