The History of PRI

Dr. Harris and his students in the Paleontological Laboratory, McGraw Hall, Cornell University, c. 1921 (Katherine V. W. Palmer, PRI Director 1952-1978, seated far right). A complete biography of Dr. Harris has been recently been published by W. Brice, and is available from PRI.



The Paleontological Research Institution began as the dream of Gilbert Dennison Harris (1864-1952), a professor of geology at Cornell University from 1894 to 1934. He founded PRI in 1932 to house his collection of fossils and to publish research in paleontology - the study of the history of life on Earth.

PRI began as a small building behind Dr. Harris' home in Ithaca, New York. Through various additions over the next two decades, the original building grew into a 20-room complex that housed the Institution's collections, library, laboratories and offices.

PRI has continued to grow through the years, requiring a move to larger quarters in 1968. The present facility on West Hill, along Trumansburg Road (N.Y. Rte. 96), holds over 2 million fossils and shells, and a 50,000 volume research library. In 2003, PRI opened the 18,000 square foot Museum of the Earth, a natural history museum that showcases PRI's specimens and takes the visitor on a journey through time.

What We are Today

The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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