Jack Horner: Biography & Discoveries

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we will learn about a man who loves dinosaurs, Jack Horner. We will learn about the discoveries that he has contributed to paleontology despite the difficulties he has faced.

Jack Horner's Early Life

Many young children (and adults) have looked at dinosaurs with awe. We've often wished we could just see one up close. There have even been many movies created depicting what it may be like to actually pet a dinosaur. Jack Horner said 'When I was growing up in Montana I had two dreams: I wanted to be a paleontologist and I wanted to have a pet dinosaur.' Jack Horner has always loved dinosaurs and has dedicated his life to discovering everything he can about dinosaurs.

John R. Horner went by 'Jack' in order to avoid confusion as his father was also named 'John.' He was born in 1946 in Montana. His father owned a gravel business, so Jack grew up around rocks. His father would take him fossil hunting in the area, and Jack found his love of fossils.

Throughout school, he wasn't very successful in the traditional sense. He suffered from dyslexia, which went undiagnosed for years. Despite his difficulties with reading and writing, he loved practical science. He ended up wowing a professor of geology with his science fair projects on fossils. This professor invited him to come to Montana State University and study geology; he started in 1964.

Early Career

Jack served with the Marines during the Vietnam war for two years. When he came back, he continued to study for a few more years, but didn't graduate. In 1973 he left Montana State University to drive trucks. But he continued to explore rocks and fossils. He also continued to dream of being a paleontologist by applying to jobs in the field of fossils.

Two years later, in 1975, Princeton accepted him as a lab technician in the History of Natural Science Museum. Then, in 1977, he became the research assistant.

His first published paper was in 1979. He worked with Brandvold in excavating a site in Montana. They discovered baby duck-billed dinosaur bones. From here he published a paper explaining that at least some dinosaurs cared for their young. This is the discovery that he is probably most well-known for and it put him at the forefront of paleontologists, despite his lack of a degree.

Horner discovered many dinosaur nests, strengthening his theory that dinosaurs cared for their young.
Dinosaur nest

Other Discoveries and Awards

Horner continued to uncover additional dinosaur nests, showing that dinosaurs cared for their young. He also pushed forward the idea that dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than to reptiles. He often drew his dinosaurs with feathers in order to present this idea.

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