Derek Ernest Gilmor Briggs (born 10 January 1950) is an Irish palaeontologist and taphonomist based at Yale University. Briggs is one of three palaeontologists, along with Harry Blackmore Whittington and Simon Conway Morris, who were key in the reinterpretation of the fossils of the Burgess Shale. He is the Yale University G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics; former Director, Peabody Museum of Natural History; and presently Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
|Born||Derek Ernest Gilmor Briggs
10 January 1950 
|Residence||New Haven, Connecticut, United States|
|Thesis||Arthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, Canada (1976)|
|Doctoral advisor||Harry Whittington|
Briggs was educated at Trinity College Dublin where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology in 1972. He went on to the University of Cambridge to work under British palaeontologist Harry Blackmore Whittington. He was awarded a PhD in 1976 on Arthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, Canada.
While at the University of Cambridge, Briggs worked on the fossils of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia alongside a fellow student Simon Conway Morris, both under the supervision of Harry Whittington, on the exceptionally well-preserved Burgess Shale fauna. The Burgess Shale project subsequently became one of the most celebrated endeavours in the field of palaeontology in the latter half of the 20th century. On 1 July 2008 he took over as Director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. He became the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics at Yale in 2011.
Briggs's research is on the taphonomy, or preservation, and evolutionary significance of the exceptionally preserved fossil biotas known as Konservat-Lagerstätten – fossil formations that include evidence of faunal soft tissue. His work involves a range of approaches from experimental work on the factors controlling decay and fossilisation, through studies of early diagenetic mineralisation and organic preservation, to field work on a range of fossil occurrences.
|1974–1977||Postdoctoral research Fellow, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge|
|1977–1985||Department of Geology, Goldsmiths College, University of London|
|1985–2002||Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol (Chair 1997–2001)|
|2001–2002||Visiting professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago|
|2003–||Professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and Curator in charge of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University|
|2004–2007||Director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies|
|2008–2014||Director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University|
|2011–||G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University|
His nomination for election to the Royal Society reads:
|“||Professor Briggs has made several remarkable discoveries of exceptionally preserved fossils. His researches have elucidated their evolutionary significance, resulting in a significant shift in the focus of palaeontology toward these important windows on the life of the past. His work on the arthropods from the Burgess Shale of British Columbia has altered our perception of the nature of the Cambrian radiation. He demonstrated that morphological disparity among living arthropods is similar to that in the Cambrian, indicating that the functional and developmental constraints on form were operative from the earliest stages of metazoan evolution. He described the first evidence of the soft-tissues of conodonts, which resolved the vexed question of their affinities, with the recognition that these important fossils are the earliest known vertebrates. More recently he has pioneered a combination of new experimental approaches to the process involved in fossilization of the 'soft parts' of animals. His chemical and mineralogical investigations have demonstrated how soft tissues can be replicated at the cellular level in minerals such as apatite (the Medusa effect).||”|