Renowned Paleontologist Dies

David Raup, whose contributions to paleontology fundamentally changed the field, has passed away at 82.

Jul 16, 2015
Amanda B. Keener

JUDITH YAMAMOTO

Paleontologist David Raup died last week (July 9) as a result of complications from a surgery he underwent to remove a subdural hematoma, The New York Times reported. He was 82.

Raup, an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, was one of the first scientists to utilize the fossil record to ask basic biological questions that challenged prior dogmas about diversity, animal form, and life history.

“David Raup ushered in a renaissance in paleontology,” Charles Marshall, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked with Raup as a student and a colleague, told the University of Chicago. “Before Dave, much of the discipline was centered on describing what was. Dave taught the discipline to think about the processes that might have generated the past record.”

His theory of extinction periodicity, which is based on data indicating that species extinctions spike around every 26 million years, seeded many new ideas and research about the history of life on Earth. “Throughout their careers, most scientists are lucky if they can come up with one idea considered so insightful by their peers that it significantly alters the research agendas of a large number of colleagues,” Arnold Miller, a paleontologist at the University of Cincinnati, told the New York Times. “By rough count, Dave Raup did this at least five times in a research career spanning some 40 years.”

Raup is survived by his wife, a son, a stepson, and a grandson.