It is not often that one gets to meet a paleontologist, especially one of Dr Jack Horner’s standing.
Dr Horner is one of America’s best-known paleontologists. He was only 8 years old when he discovered his first dinosaur fossil (which he still keeps on his desk!) and, together with his team, has since collected more than 100 Triceratops specimens and nearly two dozen Tyrannosaurus rex specimens.
He has also served as the technical advisor for all the Steven Spielberg Jurassic Park movies and, some say, was the inspiration for one of the lead characters, Dr. Alan Grant.
As Curator of Paleontology, Museum of the Rockies, and Regents Professor, Montana State University, Dr Horner is well versed in challenging young minds. He is also the author of several children’s books including Dinosaurs Under the Big Sky and the Museum of the Rockies is home to one of the largest and most important dinosaur collections in the world.
Little Day Out sat down with Dr Horner at the media preview of the Science Centre Singapore’s Titans of the Past exhibition to find out where his love of dinosaurs came from and why it is important to keep nurturing the inquisitive side of children.
Little Day Out: What got you interested in dinosaurs when you were a kid?
Dr Jack Horner: Nothing. I was born this way. There has never been a time in my life that I was not interested. I lived in a place where you could find dinosaurs and even as a little kid, I could go out and find something.
LDO: When did know that you wanted to be a paleontologist?
JH: I still want to be a paleontologist!
LDO: What do you think kids who aspire to grow up to be paleontologist should do?
JH: I think it is important that kids learn what discovery is about – no matter what they are discovering. Just learning about discovering something and figuring things out; so that they are not reading a book to learn something, they are actually figuring things out for themselves. That’s the most important thing.
LDO: Does anything still surprise you after so many years as a paleontologist?
JH: I’m surprised at how many preconceived ideas people have. In other words, they have read books, they have believed what they read and so they move very slowly at discovering new things. I don’t read, I’m dyslexic; so I don’t have a bunch of other people’s ideas in my head. I just try to figure out everything and when I figure something out and I’m surprised that I’ve discovered something new that people just hadn’t discovered before.