Malcolm McKenna dies


Malcolm McKenna, a retired curator of vertebrate paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and a Supporter of NCSE, died on March 3, 2008, in Boulder, Colorado, according to the obituary in The New York Times (March 10, 2008). Born on July 21, 1930, in Pomona, California, he attended the California Institute of Technology and Pomona College, before graduating in paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also earned his Ph.D. In 1960, he joined the staff of the American Museum of Natural History, his institutional home for four decades. After retiring from AMNH, he held adjunct positions at the University of Colorado and the University of Wyoming. Among his honors were the Gold Medal of the Paleontological Society of America, which he received in 1992, and the Romer-Simpson Medal of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists, which he received in 2001.

According to the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology's obituary, McKenna's life's work was "a new Classification of Mammals Above the Species Level -- both living and extinct -- that in 1997 he and Susan Bell of the American Museum of Natural History published in both book and database form," but he "delighted most in interdisciplinary studies and exhorted his students and colleagues to synthesize knowledge as much as specialize in it." In a review of David Rains Wallace's Beasts of Eden published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution in 2004, McKenna wrote, "Forever, it seems, there has been a struggle between those who seek comfort in dogma and those who are willing to grow intellectually. ... We are still learning how evolution works but, unfortunately, creationist dogma is still holding back intellectual growth among the general public."