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Philip J. Currie (born 1949-03-13 in Brampton, Ontariomarker) is a Canadianmarker palaeontologist and museum curator who helped found the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontologymarker in Drumheller, Albertamarker and is now a professor at the University of Albertamarker in Edmontonmarker. In the 1980s he became the director of the Canada-Chinamarker Dinosaur Project, the first cooperative palaeontological partnering between China and the West since the Central Asiatic Expeditions in the 1920s, and helped describe some of the first feathered dinosaurs. He is one of the primary editors of the influential Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, and his areas of expertise include theropods, the origin of birds, and dinosaurian migration patterns and herding behavior. He was one of the models for palaeontologist Alan Grant in the film Jurassic Park.


Currie received his Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Torontomarker in 1972, a Masters of Science from McGill Universitymarker in 1975, and a Ph.D. in biology (with distinction) from the same institution in 1981. Both his masters and Ph.D. theses were on synapsids and early aquatic diapsids.

Currie became curator of earth sciences at the Provincial Museum of Alberta (which became the Royal Alberta Museummarker in 2005) in Edmontonmarker in 1976 just as be began the Ph.D. program. Within three seasons he had so much success at fieldwork that the province began planning a larger museum to hold the collection. The collection became part of the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, which was completed in 1985 (the "Royal" epithet was added in 1990), and Currie was appointed curator of dinosaurs.

In 1986, Currie became the co-director of the joint Canada-China Dinosaur Project, with Dale Russell of the Canadian Museum of Naturemarker in Ottawamarker and Dong Zhiming of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing.

Contributions to palaeontology

Over the last 25 years he has worked on fossil discovery in Mongoliamarker, Argentinamarker, Dinosaur Provincial Parkmarker, Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Parkmarker, and many other locations.

His contributions to paleontology include synonymizing the genera Troödon and Stenonychosaurus in 1987 (with the former name taking precedence). The similarities between the troödonts and birds made him a major proponent of the theory that dinosaurs are descended from birds.

As part of the joint China-Canadian Dinosaur Project he helped describe two of the first dinosaur specimens from the lagerstätten of the Liaoningmarker province in China that clearly showed the impression of feathers: Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx. In contrast with the 1996 discovery of Sinosauropteryx, which only showed the impression of downy filaments, these were indisputably feathers. This not only helped cement the theory that birds are descended from dinosaurs, but indicated that many dromaeosaurids were feathered. This discovery made him a celebrity, featured in numerous popular articles and documentaries.

In 1997, Currie teamed up with Microsoft's Chief Technical Officer Nathan Myhrvold to create a computer model demonstrating that diplodocids could snap their tails like whips, and create small sonic booms. He was involved in the 1999 National Geographicmarker "Archeoraptor" scandal.

Currie became increasingly skeptical of the orthodox belief that large carnivorous dinosaurs were solitary animals, but there was no evidence for his hypothesis that they may have hunted in packs. However, circumstantial evidence came when he tracked down a site mentioned by Barnum Brown that featured 12 specimens of Albertosaurus from various age groups.

Personal life

Currie is a life-long science-fiction fan, and fan of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is married to palaeobotanist and palynologist Eva Koppelhus, and has three sons from a previous marriage.

Awards and recognition

  • 1981: Doctoral thesis nominated for the Canadian Society of Zoologist's best thesis of the year
  • 1988: Sir Frederick Haultain Award for significant contributions to science in Alberta
  • 1998: Featured as one of 12 outstanding Canadians in Maclean's
  • 1998: Featured on the front cover of the Canadian issue of Time
  • 1999: The American Association of Petroleum Geologists' Michel T. Halbouty Human Needs Award
  • 1999: Elected to the Royal Society of Canada
  • 2001: The festschrift Mesozoic Vertebrate Life: New Research Inspired by the Paleontology of Philip J. Currie was published in his honor
  • 2003: Ranked as one of Canada's top five explorers by Time magazine
  • 2004: Michael Smith Award
  • 2006: ASTech Award

Selected works


  1. . Translated by the Will Downs Bilby Research Center, Northern Arizona University, 2001.

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