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Roy Chapman Andrews: A Real Indiana Jones

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Files at the Beloit Historical Society reveal a fascinating story about an extraordinary man - Roy Chapman Andrews. Andrews was born January 20, 1884, here in Beloit in a little house at 419 St. Lawrence Avenue. As a young boy, Roy was always interested in animals, was an expert marksman, and enjoyed hunting. He collected birds and animals and studied taxidermy at the age of fourteen.

He graduated from Beloit High School, and enrolled at Beloit College to further his education. In 1906 while a student at Beloit College, he saved himself from drowning while on a hunting trip. This was one of the first of many close calls Roy was to experience during his thirty-five years of world-wide travel.

Upon graduating from Beloit College, he was hired by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City where he started with a job in the basement writing labels and mopping floors. He soon was given more difficult tasks and responsibilities and performed extremely well while there. He eventually served as director of the museum for a period of about seven years.

Andrews was chosen by the government for a voyage on the USS Albatross as a special naturalist and spent two years in the Dutch Indies. He became widely known after this voyage and before age thirty, he was the world’s foremost authority on whales.

His expedition to Central Asia produced spectacular results. It was in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia that they found the first dinosaur eggs ever seen by modern man. Prior to this time, it wasn’t known that dinosaurs laid eggs. Andrews called this the outstanding adventure of his life. His book “On the Trail of Ancient Man” tells of the expeditions at length.

He lectured and wrote many book to finance his expeditions. His first book was “History with Gun and Camera” and his autobiography, “An Explorer Comes Home” was published in 1947. He died March 11, 1960, in Carmel, California, at age 76, and is buried in his family plot at Oakwood Cemetery, here in Beloit.

The Roy Chapman Andrews Society, was organized in 1998 by a group of Beloit residents intent on building more awareness on our of the 20th Century’s most famous explorers. Since Roy Chapman Andrews was born and raised in Beloit, it was only fitting that such a society exists in his hometown. The mission of the Society is to honor the legacy of Roy Chapman Andrews by educating the public about Andrew’s life, work, and adventures; promoting the value of scientific exploration and discovery; emphasizing Andrew’s lifetime ties to Beloit, Wisconsin.

The Andrew’s Society annually presents the “Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award” in ceremonies at Beloit College, to outstanding modern day explorers and scientists, listed on its website.

Recommended reading on the life of Roy Chapman Andrews would be “Under a Lucky Star” by Beloit author Ann Bausum.