William Diller Matthew

William Diller Matthew FRS[1] (February 19, 1871 – September 24, 1930)[2] was a vertebrate paleontologist who worked primarily on mammal fossils, although he also published a few early papers on mineralogy, petrological geology, one on botany, one on trilobites, and he described Tetraceratops insignis,[3] which was much later suggested to be the oldest known (Early Permian) therapsid.[4][5]

William Diller Matthew

Matthew was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, the son of George Frederic Matthew and Katherine (Diller) Matthew. His father was an amateur geologist and paleontologist who instilled his son with an abiding interest in the earth sciences. Matthew received an A.B. at the University of New Brunswick in 1889 and then earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1894.

Matthew was curator of the American Museum of Natural History from the mid-1890s to 1927, and director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology from 1927 to 1930. He was the father of Margaret Matthew, a noted artist, illustrator, and sculptor who specialized in visualizing extinct species.[6]

Asia hypothesisEdit

Matthew believed that the first humans had originated in Asia, he visited Asia by taking part in the Central Asiatic expeditions. Matthew was also well known for his deeply influential 1915 article "Climate and evolution",[7] Matthews theory was that climate change was how organisms came to live where we find them today in opposition to the theory of continental drift. His basic premise was that cyclical changes in global climate along with the prevailing tendency for mammals to disperse from north to south account for the odd geographic patterns of living mammals, he believed that humans and many other groups of modern mammals first evolved in the northern areas of the globe, especially central Asia because of the shifting climatic circumstances, Matthew firmly placed hominid origins in central Asia as he thought that the high plateau of Tibet was the forcing ground of mammalian evolution.[8][9]

Selected worksEdit

  • Fossil mammals of the Tertiary of northeastern Colorado: American Museum collection of 1898. 1901.
  • The evolution of the horse. 1903.
  • The Carnivora and Insectivora of the Bridger Basin, Middle Eocene. 1909.
  • Dinosaurs with special reference to the American museum, collections. 1915.


  1. ^ Watson, D. M. S. (1932). "William Diller Matthew. 1871–1930". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 71–74. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1932.0015.
  2. ^ "William Diller Matthew". Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928–1936.
  3. ^ Matthew, W. D. (1908). "A four-horned pelycosaurian from the Permian of Texas". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 24: 183–185. hdl:2246/1434.
  4. ^ Laurin, M.; Reisz. R. R. (1996). "The osteology and relationships of Tetraceratops insignis, the oldest known therapsid". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 16: 95–102. doi:10.1080/02724634.1996.10011287.
  5. ^ Amson, E.; Laurin M. (2011). "On the affinities of Tetraceratops insignis, an Early Permian synapsid". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 56 (2): 301–312. doi:10.4202/app.2010.0063.
  6. ^ Elliot, Ann Brimacombe. Charming the bones : a portrait of Margaret Matthew Colbert. Kent, Ohio. p. 61. ISBN 9781631010026. OCLC 874920755.
  7. ^ Matthew, W. D. (1915). "Climate and Evolution". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 24 (1): 171–318. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1914.tb55346.x.
  8. ^ Beard, Chris (2004). Hunt for the Dawn Monkey. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 117–122. ISBN 0520233697.
  9. ^ Corbey, Raymond; Roebroeks, Wil (2001). Studying Human Origins, Disciplinary History and Epistemology. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 48. ISBN 9053564640.

External linksEdit