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Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (25 April 1925 - 13 March 2015) passes away at age 89

June 18, 2015
Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, who made major contributions to our knowledge of Mesozoic vertebrates, particularly mammals, died on March 13, 2015, just weeks before her 90th birthday. She was born in Sokolów Podlaski, central Poland. During the Second World War Zofia continued her education by attending clandestine classes in Warsaw. In 1949, as a student of Roman Kozlowski, she obtained an M. Phil and, in 1953, her Ph. D. Although having a long-term interest in fossil vertebrates, her early research was focused on Paleozoic invertebrates found in Poland and adjacent countries. These studies included both anatomical and stratigraphic analyses of Devonian and Ordovician trilobites as well as the jaw apparatuses of Ordovician and Silurian polychaetes.

In 1963 she was able to turn to her early interest in fossil vertebrates. As a member of the staff of the Institute of Paleobiology in Warsaw she organized and led the Polish-Mongolian Expeditions (1963-1971). In 1974 she published a memoir of the expeditions, Hunting for Dinosaurs. The results of their field work in Mongolia, including skeletons of dinosaurs and mammals, were numerous and spectacular. Among the mammals, multituberculates were her particular favorites. The Mongolian material provided the bases for a variety of studies, many with coauthors, including analyses of cranial morphology, ultrastructure of the enamel, and patterns of locomotion of multituberculates. A similar pattern of detailed and insightful research characterizes her studies of other groups of mammals.

Zofia’s broad interests in Mesozoic mammals led to the preparation of two major reference works. The first, Mesozoic mammals: the first two-thirds of mammalian history, coedited with Jay Lillegraven and Bill Clemens, appeared in 1979. An increasing tempo of discovery of fossils of Mesozoic mammals, new interpretations of their phylogenetic relationships as well as their paleoecology, soon required a major revision of this reference work. Writing with Richard Cifelli and Zhe-Xi Luo, Mammals from the Age of Dinosaurs: Origins, Evolution, and Structure, published in 2004, presented a thorough review of the available fossil record and new insights into the evolution of these mammals.

With the retirement of Roman Kozlowski in 1960, Zofia was appointed to follow him as Director of the Institute of Paleobiology, a post she held until 1982. She then stepped down from the directorship in order to accept a visiting professorship at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. She spent two years in Paris expanding her research on multituberculates. Soon after her return to Warsaw Zofia was appointed Professor of Paleontology at the University of Oslo, a position she held from 1986 to 1995. That year Zofia came back to Warsaw and was appointed Professor Emerita in the Institute of Paleobiology. In recognition of her many significant contributions to vertebrate paleontology she was elected as an Honorary Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1975.  In 1995, Zofia was awarded the Romer-Simpson Medal, the SVP’s highest honor recognizing sustained and outstanding excellence in the discipline of vertebrate paleontology.

Zofia is deeply missed by an international group of professional colleagues and many other friends.  An extensive account of her life and work has been published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 2015, 60 (2): 287-290.

Obituary written by William A. Clemens