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Indiana Jones May Have Been Inspired by the Adventures of Roy Chapman Andrews

Updated on August 8, 2017
Readmikenow profile image

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Roy Chapman Andrews on left and Indiana Jones on right.
Roy Chapman Andrews on left and Indiana Jones on right.

Many people have experienced the thrill of watching the Indiana Jones movie character defeating bad guys, surviving against impossible odds and dangerous situations. He's the one who always gets the prized ancient artifact and saves the world. Indiana Jones is one of the most popular and well-known figures in cinematic history. There are many people who believe this movie character is based on the adventures of an actual person. Roy Chapman Andrews lived a life of adventure. He is known for leading expeditions to remote places around the world and making important scientific discoveries for the American Museum of Natural History. There are many sources who believe Roy Chapman Andrews is the inspiration for Indiana Jones. George Lucas and all other creators of the film have not been willing to verify it.

Roy Chapman Andrews

The future adventurer was born in Beloit, Wisconsin on January 26, 1884. When he was growing up, Andrews was known for his love of exploring fields, forests and different types of water in the wilderness. He also impressed people with his marksman skills. At an early age, he had a love of taxidermy. Andrews was able to teach himself the art of taxidermy and was good enough to get paid for it. His work became popular, and it enabled him to make enough money to pay for his time at Beloit College.

Born Under A Lucky Star

An event during his junior of college showed his ability to survive dangerous situations. It was March 31, 1905, when a boating accident on the Rock River took a professor's life and endangered Andrews. The two decided to go on a hunting trip during spring break. The level of the Rock River had been increasing for days. It eventually reached its high water mark. Andrews and the professor had been camping for a few days and realized they had to get away from the rising river. After they had gotten on the water, the professor dropped a paddle. When he reached for it, the boat overturned. Andrews and the professor instantly found themselves in a fast-moving icy river. The professor sank under the water as Andrews was swept in the opposite direction. He struggled to reach a tree limb sticking over the river. This enabled him to pull himself to shore. Andrews tried to find his friend. When the professor's dead body was found, it was obvious cramps had made the professor unable to swim.

Roy Chapman Andrews at American Museum of Natural History
Roy Chapman Andrews at American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

After Andrews graduated from Beloit College, he went to New York City and applied for a job at the American Museum of Natural History. He was determined to get a job at the museum. Andrews was told there were no openings for his skills at the museum. Upon hearing this, Andrews mentioned there was a position open as a janitor in the taxidermy department; he had the qualifications to perform it. While doing this work, he also started collecting specimens for the museum. Eventually, Andrews continued to collect specimens and enrolled in Columbia University. There he was able to earn a Master of Arts degree in Mammalogy. During this time, he brought in a skeleton of a beached whale. This was followed by his dedicated study and investigations of whales. This work established him a leading authority in studying whales. Andrews traveled to Japan, Korea, East Indies as well as Alaska studying the aquatic mammals.

Roy Chapman Andrews and other members of an expidition
Roy Chapman Andrews and other members of an expidition

Land Exploration

Starting in 1916, he went to the forests of Northern Korea on an exploration. Andrews wanted to test the theory that central Asia was the place where much of Europe's and America's plant and animal life started. During 1916, Andrews was able to get funding for a zoological expedition to a central Asian plateau in southwest China and Burma. This was delayed because of World War I. During the war, Andrews worked in U.S. Naval Intelligence and was located in China. He was able to continue with the expedition in 1921.

Roy Chapman Andrews looking at Gobi desert in Mongolia
Roy Chapman Andrews looking at Gobi desert in Mongolia


Early in 1922, Andrews was able to lead a group of scientist to an area of the Gobi desert in Mongolia that has previously been unexplored. He was the first person to use automobiles in the area. Extra supplies followed on a camel caravan. This is where the first nest of dinosaur eggs was discovered. This expedition was also able to uncover fossils of previously unknown dinosaurs and other mammals that lived with dinosaurs.

Surviving Danger

According to published accounts of his adventures, Andrews was able to escape death at least ten times. Twice he survived drowning in a typhoon, one time this happened after a wounded whale rammed his boat. He and his wife were able to escape being eaten by wild dogs and an attack by fanatical lama priests. Andrews also fell over a cliff and was able to escape being caught by a huge python. More than once he came close to being killed by bandits.

Roy Chapman Andrews on his horse in the Gobi desert
Roy Chapman Andrews on his horse in the Gobi desert

Bandits And Dinosaur Eggs

Andrews was returning from the desert when he encountered some bandits who had taken some containers that held dinosaur eggs from their camp. The bandits were at the bottom of a slope. Andrews was on a horse and decided to head straight at them with great speed. He came at the bandits holding his revolver. Andrews charged so quickly, the bandit's horses reared up and knocked the bandits off. One horse didn't move because of fear. The bandits tried running away. Andrews didn't kill them, but did shoot their hats off as they ran. He recovered the dinosaur eggs and returned to camp.


On a particularly cold night in the Gobi desert, Andrews and the others in his expedition experienced a great number of poisonous pit viper snakes looking for warmth. People were finding the poisonous snakes in their shoes, caps, equipment and even rifles. In a single night, the men on the expedition killed over 46 snakes. Everybody was able to get out of the situation unbitten and with no problems. Andrews admitted he screamed at the snakes because he was so frightened. He was so scared of the snakes: he mistakenly shot a coiled up rope. This fear caused him quite a bit of embarrassment, and he refused to talk about it.

Honorary Scout

The Boy Scouts of America made Andrews an Honorary Scout in 1927. They told him he was an American citizen whose achievements in the outdoors and adventures show exceptional character and were able to capture the imagination of all boys.

Final Years

During 1930, Andrews made his last trip to Gobi desert and found some mastodon fossils. In 1935, he returned to the United States and divorced his wife. He then remarried on Christmas of that year. The following year, he became director of the American Museum of Natural History. He retired from this position in 1941. During his retirement, Andrews wrote over a dozen books and also produced articles for popular national magazines as well as scientific journals. Roy Chapman Andrews died on March 11, 1960, of a heart attack. He was 76 years old.


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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Larry, thanks for stopping by. I agree. I guess sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very interesting!

      I had no idea Indiana Jones might have ahistorical precedent.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Thanks, Indiana Jones is more real to me after I learned about Roy Chapman Andrews.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 

      2 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I have never heard of Roy Andrews, but he seems like an Indian Jones type to me. I have always wondered if that character was loosely based on an actual person. Interesting. I really enjoyed this.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Coffeequeen, thanks for stopping by. It's a fascinating story, to think there could've been a real life Indiana Jones is too much.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 years ago from Norfolk, England

      I love the Indiana Jones films. I've never heard of Roy Chapman Andrews before, but he wounds like a wonderful man and did so much in his life.


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