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beloit’s world famous explorer

did you know that the legendary explorer roy chapman andrews is from beloit?

Keep reading to learn about his fascinating life, as told by Roy Chapman Andrews himself!

Roy Chapman Andrews was born on a blistery cold winter night “at approximately two o’clock in the morning,” said Andrews himself.

Early on he loved to play outdoors and he compared himself to a rabbit, happy only when he was able to get outside and run around. He hated being indoors so much, that he would go outside no matter what the weather was!

Andrews was a hard worker, even as a young boy. He earned 10 cents a week for his allowance, but it wasn’t enough he said to buy what he wanted (which were items needed for him to go fishing and hunting).

To earn more money, he started “doing odd work for the neighbors – mowing lawns, hoeing gardens, distributing circulars, raking leaves, and taking care of horses,” and Andrews loved horses!

Andrews said that as far back as he could remember, he wanted to be “an explorer, to work in a natural history museum, and to live out of doors.” He admitted he “didn’t know how [he] was going to do it, but [he] never let ways and means clutter [his] youthful dreams.”

Andrews started at Beloit College, paying his own way through school by saving money from working and taxidermy, a skill he taught himself by reading Taxidermy and Home Decoration, a book by William T. Hornady.

He excelled in English, literature, and loved his science classes, all of which “came easy” to him, but he struggled in mathematics and found other courses not involving English, literature or science to “[bore him] exceedingly,” but he still worked hard at his studies and graduated with a degree in English in 1906.

After graduating, Andrews started his professional career at the American Museum of Natural History, fulfilling his childhood dream of working in a natural history museum.

Although he applied to work in the taxidermy department, he was offered a job sweeping floors, which he accepted. He took his work seriously, even when others questioned his work by saying “a man with a college education scrubbing floors!”

Andrews would reply by saying “not just any floors; museum floors are different.”

Knowing he wanted to keep going further in his career, he would wait daily “by the big meteorite at the entrance of the museum for a glimpse of Henry Fairfield Osborn the great paleontologist, as he went to luncheon.”

Osborn was the museum president at the time, and it wasn’t long before Andrews started to work his way up in the museum, eventually being appointed to expeditions across the world, including his famous Gobi Desert expeditions in the 1920s, before becoming the director of the museum in 1934.

Photos courtesy of American Museum of Natural History and the Roy Chapman Andrews Society

Here are some fun activities to learn more!

Ology is a science website from the American Museum of Natural History for curious kids ready to embark on their own adventures to learn more about the fascinating world we live in, just like Roy Chapman Andrews!

The Roy Chapman Andrews Ology Card offers fast facts, pop questions and insight to Roy Chapman Andrews.

Ology for Educators feeling inspired to explore more? Here are some great activities for students and school groups, sorted by grade level.

Still want to know more about Roy Chapman Andrews? Check out the books by Ann Bausum, a Beloit author and read all about Andrews and his ongoing legacy through the Roy Chapman Andrews Society, in Beloit!

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