When thinking about important paleontologists and biologists that have helped us better understand the creatures that came before us, many people begin to think about the men in that field.
However, we should also recognize the women who made remarkable discoveries, like Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, the Polish paleobiologist whose research and work in the Gobi Desert was and is still admired worldwide.
Zofia was born in 1925 in Sokołów Podlaski, Poland. She spent many of her childhood years in Warsaw when her father moved their family there for work. Her love for science was ignited when she attended lectures given by Polish paleontologist Roman Kozlowski in his home.
She attended the University of Warsaw, earning a master’s degree in zoology and a doctorate in paleontology. While at the University of Warsaw, Zofia joined other geologists, paleontologists, etc., on their excavations in Poland’s Świętokrzyskie Mountains.
After earning her master’s in 1949, Zofia was hired as an assistant in the University of Warsaw’s Department of Paleontology. Then, in 1961, she was appointed director of the Institute of Paleobiology in Warsaw, which was part of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
In the 1960s, Zofia went on a series of expeditions that would significantly alter her career. Zofia helped organize some of the first Polish expeditions to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
This made her one of the first women to lead a dinosaur excavation expedition. She traveled there several times between 1963 and 1971 and made some fascinating discoveries.
In the Gobi Desert, Zofia discovered multiple fossils of dinosaurs and mammals that were alive during the Cretaceous period and were millions of years old. One of the most incredible fossils Zofia and her group found were the ones of a Velociraptor who appeared to have been in conflict with a Protoceratops.
Although the trip was successful, it certainly wasn’t easy. At one point, Zofia suffered a ruptured ear drum after a sandstorm in the desert. She flew home to have surgery and then returned to the desert to continue her work.