ANNIE M. ALEXANDER (1867-1950)

Annie Montague Alexander was an adventurer with an unending desire to learn and discover. Unlike many other paleontologists, Alexander never obtained a bachelor's or graduate degree. She attended Lasell Seminary for Young Women in Massachusetts for two years, where she studied Roman history, logic, photography, and more. After completing this two-year program, 21-year-old Alexander began to travel the world. Her father’s wealth was more than enough to support her interests, no matter the locale.

In 1900, Alexander began to attend lectures at the University of California, where she became particularly interested in paleontology. She financed and led fossil collecting expeditions to Oregon, northern California, Nevada, and more. Alexander collaborated with naturalist Joseph Grinnell to found the first West Coast natural history museum: The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California. Alexander covered most of the costs to build the museum and appointed Grinnell the first director.

Museum records show that 20,564 specimens are housed there as a result of Alexander’s collecting trips and purchases. Furthermore, she has two mammals, two birds, six fossils, and two plant species named after her. 


Samuel T. Alexander with his family; Annie on the far right. Courtesy of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.

Samuel T. Alexander with his family; Annie on the far right.
Courtesy of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.

Annie Alexander was born in Hawaii to Martha Cooke and Samuel Thomas Alexander. Her father and his business partner were the first to grow sugar cane on Maui and with that investment, the Alexander family’s financial means grew. Alexander and her siblings were educated at home by a governess. In 1882, however, the family moved to Oakland California and she attended public schools for four years. As a young adult, Alexander’s father took her on trips all over the world. They bicycled 1600 miles across England, France, and Spain. They visited Samoa, New Zealand, Singapore, China, and Japan. Later, they traveled to Bermuda and the West Indies. The family’s company, Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., continued to succeed, and Alexander used her inheritance to travel, collect, and educate.