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Other| Volume 62, ISSUE 9, P855, September 1987

Argentinian Paleontologist Contributes to the Understanding of Humans and the Environment

      Florentino Ameghino was one of the most eminent geologists, anthropologists, and paleontologists of his time, although his anthropologic contributions are of doubtful value today.
      Ameghino was born in September 1854. The exact place of his birth, however, is unknown—various sources have cited Luján, Buenos Aires province; Liguria, in northwest Italy; and even “somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.”
      Ameghino was a staunch believer in evolution, and early in his career, he wrote on fossil man, espousing his belief in the work of Charles Darwin. Ameghino, however, had his own theories on the evolution of the higher primates, and they differed somewhat from those accepted by other evolutionists.
      In 1887, Ameghino was named professor of geology and mineralogy at La Plata National University. In 1889, he identified more than 450 species of fossil mammals, and by 1906, he had classified 35 suborders. In all, he discovered more than 6,000 fossil species.
      In 1899, the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London published Ameghino's account of the molar teeth of mammals, in which he described the complicated crown patterns and multiple roots of the teeth. In 1902, he was made director of the Museum of Natural History in Buenos Aires, a position he held until his death in 1911.
      In 1873, Ameghino contracted an unidentified illness, but he recovered. In 1882, his health was again threatened when he was poisoned by a mushroom of the Amanita type (a white-spored fungus). From 1890 on, he suffered from diabetes and other disabilities, especially during the 4 years after 1898. He died of a complication of diabetes (gangrene of the foot) in La Plata, Argentina, on Aug. 6, 1911. He was honored on a stamp issued by Argentina in 1956.