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About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2016 Awardees 2016 (Romer-Simpson Medal) Mee-mann Chang


Meemann Chang (also known as Zhang Miman) was born in 1936 in Nanjing and is a native of Sheng Xian County, Zhejiang Province, China. She graduated from Moscow University in 1960 and received her Ph.D. from Stockholm University in 1982.

She has since been a research professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing. She is also the Professor of Paleontology at Peking University. She was director of the IVPP from 1983 to 1990, president of International Paleontological Association from 1992 to 1996, and president of the Paleontological Society of China from 1993 to 1997. In 1991, she was elected as a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She has been a visiting scientist at a number of leading universities and natural history museums in Sweden, the U.S.A., and the United Kingdom. She was elected a Foreign Member of the Linnaean Society of London in 1995 and an Honorary Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1997. In 2008, she was named one of the three “Petrus Artedi Lecturers” by the Royal Swedish Academy and the Swedish Museum of Natural History (the Petrus Artedi Lecturers series “represent today's frontline of research on the inventory and systematic arrangement of the global fish fauna, as well as phylogenetics and biological information systems”). In 2011, she was awarded by the University of Chicago an Honorary Doctor degree in Science. Also in 2011, she was elected foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy. Last year (2015), she was awarded an Honorary Doctor degree by the Richard Gilder Graduate School of the American Museum of Natural History.

Meemann has spent years studying the fossil fish faunas and paleoenvironments of the sedimentary basins in China’s eastern coastal provinces. Her research covers broad areas of classification, phylogeny, biogeography, and paleoecology of the late Mesozoic and Cenozoic fish faunas. These faunas are quite characteristic and consist predominantly of primitive teleosts, some of which may be ancestral types of the modern groups. Her discovery of several Early Tertiary fish groups with a transpacific distribution pattern represents an important contribution to paleobiogeography. Her research on the Mesozoic lampreys furthers our understanding of ancient lampreys, bridges the gap between the Paleozoic ones and their recent relatives, and adds siginificantly to our knowledge of the evolutionary history and ontogenetic development of lampreys.

More recently, her studies of the Cenozoic fishes from the Tibetan Plateau represent a classic example of interdisciplinary research, which combined earth and life sciences and provided a convincing link between environmental changes on the Tibetan Plateau and biological responses of its inhabitants, with her fossil fishes much like Darwin’s finches, showing evolution in action.

Chang’s most important contributions to science have, however, been her studies of the cranial anatomy of the earliest sarcopterygians (Lobe-finned fishes) from the Devonian rocks of Eastern Yunnan, namely Youngolepis and Diabolepis. Using serial thin sectioning and enlarged wax models, she investigated in extreme detail the fine structures of the fishes that lived about 400 million years ago. The approach represented the classical Stockholm School at its best. Her studies have furthered our understandings of early evolutionary history of vertebrates in general and of origin of tetrapods in particular.

Meemann’s contributions to science are not limited to her field of research--she has shown herself to be an effective administrator, a charismatic academic ambassador, a highly regarded leader in the international paleontological community. Above all, she is a great vertebrate paleontologist. However, she remains a modest person.

                                                                  (Contributed by Desui Miao)