The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is named for the first man to recognize the importance of the John Day Fossil Beds.
Thomas Condon, an early Oregon minister and self-trained scientist, was the first person to identify this region as a world class paleontological site. He first learned of the area's abundant fossils from soldiers in 1862 Condon ministered to at a church he had established in The Dalles, Oregon. In 1865, he visited the basin for the first time and started excavating fossils. The specimens he sent to eastern museums for verification ignited scientific interest, and in recognition of his scientific work, Condon was appointed the first Oregon State Geologist in 1872. He would later become a professor of geology at the University of Oregon. He held the position until his death in 1907.