Vertebrate Paleontology

Former Curator and Mary R. Dawson Chair of Vertebrate Paleontology K. Christopher Beard

Chris Beard is former Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. Beard stewards one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaurs and fossil mammals and leads one of the most active vertebrate paleontological research groups in the nation. Beard received his PhD from the Functional Anatomy and Evolution Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1989.

Beard is a world-renowned expert on the primate fossil record and a 2000 MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award Winner. Beard's research is reshaping critical debates about the evolutionary origins of mammals, including primates, routinely questioning current thinking about their geographical origins. As a member and former Chair of the Media Liaison Committee for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Beard is regularly featured in regional and national broadcast and print media, including National Public Radio, the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, and popular and professional publications, among them National Geographic, Discover, and Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. He has published numerous articles in leading academic journals, including Journal of Human Evolution, Nature, and Science.

Beard’s popular book The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes and Humans was selected to receive the W.W. Howells Book Award from the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association and the 2005 Science Book Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. This fast-paced narrative full of vivid stories from the field demonstrates that the first anthropoids (the diverse group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans) evolved millions of years earlier than was previously suspected and emerged in Asia rather than Africa. Beard was also part of the research teams that discovered Teilhardina, the earliest primate ever found in North America, and Eosimias, one of the earliest higher primates yet discovered.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is ranked as one of the top five natural history museums in the country. The museum maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. More information is available at 

Return to Chris Beard's staff page