Alfred Romer

Alfred Sherwood Romer ( born December 28, 1894 in White Plains, New York; † 5 November 1973) was an American paleontologist. His field was the evolution of vertebrates.


Alfred Sherwood Romer was born in White Plains, New York, where he graduated from high school graduation. He then worked for a year as a clerk for the railroad and then decided yet to attend a college. With the help of a scholarship from Amherst College, he was able to study history and German literature. Frequent visits to the American Museum of Natural History, he discovered his passion for natural history fossils. At the outbreak of the First World War, he volunteered for military service and was immediately used in France.

In 1919 he returned to New York and began studying biology at Columbia University in which he already graduated two years later with a doctorate. After that, he was employed as a research assistant at Bellevue Medical School, New York University and taught in particular histology, embryology and general anatomy. In 1923, he received a call from the University of Chicago, where he met his future wife, Ruth, with whom he had three children.

In Chicago, he found conditions that allowed him to intensify his main interest - paleontology. Thus arose in the years 1925-1935 37 professional articles that dealt with this issue.

In 1934 he was appointed professor of biology at Harvard University. In 1946 he became head of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology ( Agassiz Museum ). He died after a brief illness on November 5, 1973.

Romer - gap

The (English Romer - Gap ) " Romer - gap " refers to a fossil- poor time of 360 million to 345 million years ago during the transition from Devonian to Carboniferous 360 million years ago, the Romans described. It was not until the middle of the Lower Carboniferous could be again prove fossils.

One explanation for the species gap is based on a reduction of the oxygen content to only 13 % (now 21%) from. A reinspection of the oxygen partial million years ago, about 230 could explain the development of efficient respiratory systems, as they still have the dinosaurs or birds with their air bags. Accordingly, a high percentage of oxygen would favor the formation of giant insects in the Upper Devonian about 420 million years ago. Due to the diffusion controlled respiratory system ( trachea ) are now insects with a body length greater than about 15 centimeters, is not possible.


1954 Romer was awarded the Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS ), and two years later he received the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the Academy. 1962 Romer received the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America. In 1964 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. To him, the Romer -Simpson Medal was named in honor of an award in the field of vertebrate paleontology of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, whose honor he was a member (1968).


  • Vertebrate Paleontology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1933, 2nd edition 1945, 3rd Edition 1966.
  • Man and the Vertebrates. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1933, 2nd edition 1937, 3rd edition 1941, 4th edition in 1949 under the revised title The Vertebrate Story.
  • The Vertebrate Body. W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia 1949, 2nd edition 1955, 3rd edition 1962, 4th edition 1970; from the 5th edition, together with Thomas S. Parsons: 5th edition 1977, 6th edition 1985.
  • Osteology of the Reptiles. University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1956.
  • Notes and Comments on Vertebrate Paleontology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1968.