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Douglas Owsley - 1973

Head of physical anthropology, Smithsonian Instititute Museum of Natural History

The son of a game warden, Owsley attended UW to pursue an undergraduate degree in zoology. In a UW introductory anthropology course, he discovered a passion and aptitude for the subject and changed his career path. He went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees in anthropology from the University of Tennessee (1978) and then taught at the college level.

Owsley is now the curator and division head for physical anthropology of the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

During his distinguished career, Owsley has been involved in nationally recognized projects, including identifying the crew of the Civil War Confederate submarine CSS Hunley and determining whether Kennewick Man, a 9,600 year-old skeleton discovered in Washington state, was a direct ancestor of an existing Native American tribe.

He also has worked closely with law enforcement agencies to identify the remains of crime victims and those who died at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas; has removed the anonymity of Croatian war victims; and has identified the remains of U.S. service personnel serving in a variety of combat zones. Owsley received the 2002 Department of the Army Commander's Award for Civilian Service for forensic investigations that helped identify victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

In November 2005, Smithsonian magazine included him, along with software pioneer Bill Gates, astronaut Sally Ride, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg, among "35 Who Made a Difference." The magazine recognized artists, scholars and scientists who have enriched American life. To read the article, click here.

Photo courtesy of UW News Service

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Douglas Owsley

Douglas Owsley
Douglas Owsley started at UW as a zoology major but soon changed to anthropology. He is now the curator at Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History and has won awards for his contributions to anthropology.

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