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Fellows Directory

Derek Briggs

Professor Derek Briggs FRS


Elected: 1999


Derek Briggs has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the history of life through his research on exceptionally preserved fossils, encouraging a shift in the focus of palaeontology toward these important windows on the life of the past. His work on the Cambrian explosion led to the first analysis of the relationships and morphological evolution of early arthropods, and the reconstruction of the giant predatory Anomalocaris from the Burgess Shale.

He uses laboratory experiments, coupled with analyses of specimens, to determine how soft tissues are fossilised through replication by minerals such as apatite and pyrite, and how organic cuticles are preserved. He has contributed to new discoveries on many fossil groups of different ages, ranging from the nature and vertebrate affinities of the conodont animal to the colour of dinosaur plumage. Derek served as Director of the Yale Peabody Museum, and has been awarded the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London, the Boyle Medal of the Royal Dublin Society, and the Paleontological Society Medal.

Professional positions

G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


“history of life, “sedimentary geochemistry, Animal evolution, Biodiversity, Invertebrates, Organic geochemistry”, Palaeontology”