|Mary Higby Schweitzer|
S. Communicative Disorders Utah State University 1977
Ph. D.Biology Montana State University, 1995
Mary Higby Schweitzer is a paleontologist at North Carolina State University known for leading the groups which discovered the remains of blood cells in dinosaur fossils and later discovered soft tissue remains in the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen MOR 1125, as well as evidence that the specimen was a pregnant female when she died. More recently, Schweitzer's work has shown molecular similarities in Tyrannosaurus remains and chickens, providing further evidence of the bird-dinosaur connection.
Schweitzer earned a B.S. in Communicative Disorders from Utah State University in 1977, and got a Certificate of Secondary Education in Broadfield Science from Montana State University in 1988. She received her Ph.D., in Biology from Montana State University in 1995. She has three children.
Schweitzer is currently researching Molecular Paleontology, molecular diagenesis and taphonomy, evolution of physiological and reproductive strategies in dinosaurs and their bird descendants, and astrobiology. She is currently working with NASA scientists to look for trace evidences of past life on other bodies in the solar system.
Schweitzer was the first researcher to identify and isolate soft tissues from a 68 million year old fossil bone. The soft tissues are collagen, a connective protein. Amino acid sequencing of several samples have shown matches with the known collagens of chickens, frogs, newts and other animals. Prior to Schweitzer’s discovery, the oldest soft tissue recovered from a fossil was less than one million years old. Schweitzer has also isolated organic compounds and antigenic structures in sauropod egg shells. With respect to the significance of her work, Kevin Padian, Curator of Paleontology, University of California Museum of Paleontology, has stated "it's time to readjust our thinking."
Schweitzer first publicly announced her discovery in 1993. Since then, the claim of discovering soft tissues in a 68 million year old fossil has been disputed by some molecular biologists. The authenticity of her discovery, however, is now generally accepted in the scientific community although the mechanism of the preservation is not well understood.
Young Earth Creationists have cited Schweitzer's work as evidence that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Schweitzer, however, who describes herself as a "complete and total Christian," has nonetheless condemned this interpretation of her work.