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Margaret Matthew Colbert: A Life of Art and Science


Margaret Matthew Colbert, who illustrated popular books on dinosaurs and prehistoric life, and who designed the SVP logo, passed away on February 24 at the age of 95.

Although an artist by training, she was no stranger to paleontology. Her father, William Diller Matthew, was one of the preeminent mammalian paleontologists of his time, and her grandfather, George Frederick Matthew, studied the Paleozoic faunas and floras in the rocks of his native New Brunswick, Canada.

After graduating from the California College of Arts, Margaret was hired at the American Museum in New York as a scientific illustrator. There she met Edwin H. (Ned) Colbert, with whom she raised five sons. Mothering was more than a full-time job, but she managed to continue her artistic career, illustrating several of his popular books.

When her sons were old enough to look after themselves, she often accompanied Ned on his scientific trips around the world, and had many international friends. In 1969, they "retired" to Flagstaff, Arizona, where he held an emeritus position at the Museum of Northern Arizona, and where she continued her work as an illustrator and painter. There, in addition to illustrating a few more books, she painted large murals depicting late Triassic life – examples can be seen at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and at the Petrified Forest National Park Visitor Center. She was gracious, fun-loving, and never lost her love of life and nature. (Matthew Colbert)


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