Category: Famous Figures

Teaching Year 4 About Mary Anning

Year 4 Learn All About Mary Anning

When Everything Dinosaur team members attended the Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference last week, they helped organise a competition for the young scientists from the schools that attended.  As well as running a fossil hunting activity and conducting four dinosaur workshops over the course of the conference, team members also provided the school children attending with information on Mary Anning.  By name dropping scientists, the children could make up a list of famous contributors to scientific endeavour.  A prize was awarded to the school which created the longest list.

Naturally, with a fossil hunting activity as part of our dinosaur workshop, Mary Anning was an easy choice for ourselves.

Posting Up Information on Mary Anning

Helping Year 4 to learn all about scientists.

Helping Year 4 to learn all about scientists.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 The picture above is of the poster we put up on our fossil hunting workshop stand.  We put it in a prominent place so that all the children could easily spot it as they hunted for fossils on our artificial beach.  During the dinosaur workshop, which we especially created for this event, we made sure to mention the competition and Mary Anning so that the children could be encouraged to take part.

The dinosaur workshop that we had prepared for this conference involved looking at real dinosaur fossil bones, exploring how our bodies compare to those of dinosaurs and looking at some of the very latest research.  Teachers were also invited to break a few bones, nothing to worry about though, just a clever experiment that we thought up that helped the children learn what our bones (amphibian bones, reptile, bird and mammal bones) are composed of.  Collagen was indeed the word of the day and helped to link our dinosaur workshop together as well as tying it into important aspects of the Key Stage 2 science curriculum.

To contact Everything Dinosaur about dinosaur workshops in school: Contact Everything Dinosaur About School Visits

Sir Richard Owen Gets Blue Plaque

Sir Richard Owen Honoured with Blue Plaque

Sir Richard Owen, the 19th Century anatomist and palaeontologist who first used the term dinosaur, has been honoured by the Society of Biology by having a blue heritage plaque installed at his former school, Lancaster Royal Grammar.  The plaque was unveiled yesterday at a small ceremony.  Blue plaques serve to act as a historical marker, indicating that a notable person was associated with a place or that an important, historical event occurred at that location.  This blue plaque commemorates that fact that Sir Richard (knighted in 1884), attended the school from 1809-1819.

The Blue Plaque Erected at Lancaster Royal Grammar School

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Picture Credit: LRGS

 Undoubtedly, Sir Richard Owen was a very talented scientist and an extremely clever man.  Although he did not impress all his tutors whilst at Lancaster Grammar School.  One school master described him as “impudent” and doubted whether the son of a merchant would ever amount to very much.  Although Sir Richard gained a great deal of acclaim during his lifetime and certainty did make a huge contribution to science, by all accounts he had a very egregious character.  There are a number of accounts of him plagiarising the work of his contemporaries and he was very critical of the work of some of his peers.  For example, the then, plain Richard Owen disputed much of the evidence put forward to support the theory of natural selection as suggested by Charles Darwin in the “Origin of Species”, which was first published in 1859.  Richard Owen seemed to resent the success of others and he has earned a reputation (perhaps deserved), for being quick to condemn the work of others whilst desiring to talk up his own contribution.

To read another article about Sir Richard Owen: Remembering Sir Richard Owen”

In a glittering career, which saw him rise to the top of the Victorian scientific community, Sir Richard Owen was awarded many accolades.  He supervised the first “life-sized” prehistoric animal replicas as part of the Great Exhibition in 1851, he acquired one of the very first Archaeopteryx fossil specimens and studied it in great detail.  He described a vast array of extinct and extant animals and wrote a prestigious amount of academic literature.  Perhaps his most notable achievement was campaigning for and helping to set up the museum now known as the Natural History Museum.  Owen’s “cathedral to nature” opened in 1881.

Sir Richard Owen may be credited with coining the term “dinosaur”, but he was not the first person to note that the strange fossils of ancient animals being found in southern England and elsewhere represented a distinct group of animals.  The German palaeontologist, Hermann von Meyer stated that these ancient reptiles now known as dinosaurs should be considered a separate Order as early as 1832, around ten years before Sir Richard Owen coined the term “Dinosauria”.

A Portrait of the Young Richard Owen

A young Sir Richard Owen.

A young Sir Richard Owen.

In total ten blue plaques are been erected by the Society of Biology to commemorate the contributions to science made by “heroes of biology”.  Other recipients include: Patrick Steptoe, Jean Purdy and Robert Edwards who jointly developed IVF, leading to the world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown who was born in 1978, (plaque located at Dr. Kershaw’s Hospice, Oldham) and Sir Anthony Carlisle, an anatomist who helped develop the concept of producing medical statistics.

There is even a plaque being erected to “Dolly the Sheep”, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell rather than an embryonic one.  This plaque can be seen at the Roslin Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh), where Dolly lived all her life (1996-2003).  We are not sure quite how Sir Richard Owen would feel about having a plaque erected to honour him at the same time as a sheep gets one, but we suspect that he would be desperately keen to learn more about the science of genetics, which was virtually unknown when he was alive.

The Weird and Wonderful Cambrian

Ancient Balloon Shaped Animal Sheds Light on Cambrian Fauna

A bizarre creature that resembled a “spiky balloon”, part of an amazing marine biota that thrived some 520 million years ago, has been named in honour of  a Leicester scientist who died earlier this year.  The finely-grained, fossiliferous beds around Chengjiang (southern China), are believed to rival the famous Burgess Shale beds of British Columbia, for the rocks in this part of the world were once the muds and silts that collected at the bottom of an ancient Cambrian sea.  Preserved within the layers of rock, over half a billion years old, are the remains of strange creatures that thrived at around the time of the very first animals with a notochord, the ancestor of today’s vertebrates, were evolving.

One such creature, which has a fossil described as being like “a crushed bird’s nest” has been named Nidelric pugio in honour of the late Professor Richard Aldridge, an internationally renowned palaeontologist and keen bird watcher.  He was a prominent member of the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology.  Fragmentary specimens of this creature had been found before, but this specimen preserves the majority of the animal and even though the fossil is distorted,  it has been identified as a type of chancellorid, a group of animals that have no direct descendants alive today.

Professor Aldridge was regarded as a world leader in the research into the Cambrian fossils found in the Chengjiang locality.  This prickly specimen measures around nine centimetres in total length and is just one of an incredible number of beautifully preserved creatures that hint at a rich and diverse marine ecosystem, a record of which  has been preserved as fossils.

The Bizarre Nidelric pugio – Like Nothing on Earth Today

An ancient pin cushion N. pugio

An ancient pin cushion N. pugio

Picture Credit: Leicester University

The name of the fossil is derived from the Latin “Nidus”, meaning bird’s nest  or a resemblance to such a structure and “adelric”, the Old English name “Aedelic”, which itself means “noble ruler”, the source for the surname Aldridge.

A Close Up of the Spikes that Surround this Animal

Ancient defences?

Ancient defences?

Picture Credit: Leicester University

One of the reasons stated for the “Cambrian explosion”, a rapid radiation and diversification of creatures during the latter stages of the Cambrian, is that food chains began to be established, whereby passive grazing and feeding as a result of serendipitous circumstances were replaced with predator/prey interactions.  The spikes that surrounded N. pugio, which measured just a few millimetres high, most likely had a defensive purpose.

The strata has permitted the preservation of these creatures in such perfect detail that even traces of their rudimentary nervous systems can be identified, as well as legs, guts, eyes and even that most advance element of the central nervous system – the brain.

To read more about this remarkable research: Ancient Arthropod Brain and Nervous System Studied

Professor Aldridge, passed away in February of this year.  He had a distinguished career in palaeontology and was regarded as an expert on Conodonts and early marine invertebrates.  He became a professor at Leicester University in 1996 and served as Head of the Department of Geology from 1998 to 2004.  He held he prestigious title of the F.W. Bennett Professorship at the University from 2002 until his retirement from the University three years ago.

Cambrian Creature Named in Honour of Professor Aldridge

Honoured for his contribution to palaeontology.

Honoured for his contribution to palaeontology.

Picture Credit: Leicester University

Remembering Samuel Husbands Beckles (1814-1890)

Samuel H. Beckles and Iguanodonts plus Becklespinax

Whilst going over some notes in a rare office tidy up, we came across a handful of old genealogy papers relating to research on Samuel Husbands Beckles.  Who, you might ask?  One thing that is for certain, names such as Gideon Mantell, Sir Richard Owen and Mary Anning may be quite well known, but few people outside the Earth sciences (and perhaps one or two in the disciplines we group together as the  Earth sciences), may not be familiar with the name.  Samuel Husbands Beckles was born in 1814 (April 12th we think), on the island of Barbados.  He came from a wealthy and well-to-do family and he found great success as a lawyer.  Samuel Beckles had always been keen on studying the natural world and science, although he lacked any real, formal scientific training.

Unlike people in the UK today, who might dream of early retirement in the Caribbean, Samuel decided at the grand old age of 31 to give up the vast majority of his legal work and retire in England.  As a rich, and well connected member of Georgian/Victorian high society, he did much to fund and popularise the study of the geology and fossils found in southern England (he lived at St Leonards-on-Sea, E. Sussex).  He dedicated much of the rest of his life to collecting fossils and learning about the geology of the Weald.  He is credited with the discovery of three, articulated, tall-spined dorsal vertebrae (back bones), no vertebrae fossils had ever been found that looked like these, indeed the exact location of the find remains uncertain.  We do know that these fossils were found at a site close to the small town of Battle, in East Sussex, it is probable that these fossils came from a cutting or quarry that represented strata that make ups the Hastings Subgroup of the Weald basin.  This would suggest that the fossils came from a dinosaur that lived during the Early Cretaceous.

The Fossil Material and Original Drawing (Becklespinax)

The three articulated dorsal vertebrae that represent Becklespinax.

The three articulated dorsal vertebrae that represent Becklespinax.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

These fossils were identified as belonging to some sort of large, carnivorous dinosaur (Theropoda).  Following  a review of the known fossil material in 1988, the genus Becklespinax was erected (Gregory S. Paul), the species name being Becklespinax altispinax.  The genus name honours the work of Samuel Husbands Beckles (the name translates as Beckles’ tall spines).  The contribution he made to palaeontology and geology was recognised in his own lifetime, when against the custom of the day, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London.  Although he had accumulated a vast amount of fossil material and been actively involved in cataloguing and analysing a substantial amount of vertebrate fossil material, his close friendship with the highly influential Richard Owen may have contributed to his appointment.

An Illustration of the Humped-Back Dinosaur (Becklespinax altispinax)

Becklespinax - an English dinosaur

Becklespinax – an English dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Samuel H. Beckles collected a large number of fossil specimens from the Weald of Sussex which at the time were described as belonging to the Iguanodon genus.  Iguanodon was rapidly becoming a bit of a “catch-all” when it came to large dinosaur bones with affinities to the material described by Gideon Mantell.  The Iguanodon genus was completely revised following a study in 2000 which reviewed the British “Iguanodon” material, including a lot of the fossils originally collected by Beckles and now the property of the Natural History Museum (London).

Although more closely associated with the study of dinosaur remains found in southern England, Samuel Beckles played a significant role in helping to interpret the geology and fossil material found on the Isle of Wight.  In 1854, he described a series of three-toed prints, the first to be described from the Isle of Wight (Compton Bay).  In February 1862, he published a formal review of the dinosaur footprints that he had found in the quarterly journal of the Geological Society.  The paper had the snappy title – “On some Natural Casts of Reptilian Footprints in the Wealden Beds of the Isle of Wight and of Swanage”.

So today, in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Husbands Beckles we take time out to recognise his contribution to geology and palaeontology.

For further information on fossils of dinosaurs from the British Isles check out “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” by Dean R. Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura which is available from Siri Scientific Press: For Further Details Click Here

“Dinosaur 13″ Documentary Film Released Today

Documentary about “Sue” the Tyrannosaurus rex in Selected Cinemas from Today

August 12th 1990 and a team from the Black Hills Institute of South Dakota, were doing what they do best, working in the field in the middle of jacketing a partial Triceratops skull that had been painstakingly excavated by removing the overlaying South Dakotan hillside rock by rock.  Susan Hendrickson, one of the team members, had slipped away from the main dig site to go scouting to see what else was slowly eroding out of the sixty-seven million year old sediment…

Just a typical day for the field team, carefully working away to extract fossilised dinosaur bone that had been entombed for millions of years.  However, what took place that afternoon was to have a significant impact on  the science of palaeontology, it changed the lives of everyone involved and the story is told in the documentary film “Dinosaur 13″ which is released in the UK today.

When Pete Larson, palaeontologist, fossil collector/dealer and President of the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research (to give Pete and the Institute their full titles), looked up and saw Susan returning in the 100 degree heat he was in for quite a shock.  Sue held out her hand and revealed what she had found, two small, brown coloured, honey-combed lumps – to the casual observer not much to look at, but for “Palaeo Pete” one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to Late Cretaceous Theropod dinosaurs, he knew exactly what these fragments of bone represented.

 The First Hints of a Tyrannosaurus rex Fossil Discovery

The inside of T. rex vertebrae is riddled with holes.

The inside of T. rex vertebrae is riddled with holes.

Picture Credit: Peter Larson

The bone fragments were light and hollow, the honeycomb texture is called camellate structure and it is found in the vertebrae of birds and Theropod dinosaurs.  What Sue had discovered eroding out of a cliff face some two miles or so from the Triceratops, was the fossilised remains of that most famous of all the dinosaurs - Tyrannosaurus rex.

“Dinosaur 13″ documents the story of the discovery of the T. rex named “Sue” (after Susan Hendrickson), which turned out to be one of the most complete specimens of this iconic animal ever found and indeed, the biggest tyrannosaurid ever discovered.  Two years later, when the FBI and the National Guard showed up, battle lines were drawn over ownership of Sue.  The United States government, world-class museums, Native American tribes, and competing palaeontologists became the Goliath to Larson’s David as he and his team from the Black Hills Institute fought to keep their dinosaur and wrestled with intimidation tactics that threatened their freedom as well.

Sue Hendrickson Photographed Next to the Jaws of the Tyrannosaurus rex

Sue Hendrickson next to her  T. rex namesake.

Sue Hendrickson next to her T. rex namesake.

Picture Credit: Peter Larson

This ninety-five minute documentary chronicles an unprecedented saga in American history and details the fierce battle to possess a relic from the Late Cretaceous.  It’s a sort of custody battle, one that involves a huge, predatory dinosaur, a female to boot, with fifty-eight huge teeth in her immense jaws.  With consummate skill, director Todd Miller excavates layer after layer, exposing human emotion in a dramatic tale that is as complex as it is fascinating.

We have had the great pleasure of meeting Pete Larson, the story of “Sue” will help to highlight some important issues surrounding the excavation of fossils and how best to go about preserving fossil material.  We have not had the chance to view the documentary yet, (hopefully soon), but with Peter, his enthusiasm and love of what he does comes across very clearly.  He and his team are passionate palaeontologists and they have done much to help in our understanding of the ancient ecosystem represented by the sedimentary deposits of the western United States.

At Everything Dinosaur, we might not necessarily agree with the some of the media straplines heralding the Tyrannosaurus rex fossils as being the “one of the greatest discoveries in history”, however, we suspect that “Sue” now on permanent display at the Field Museum in Chicago (Illinois), has inspired many millions of young dinosaur fans to learn more about these amazing creatures.

The documentary is on release in selected cinemas from today (15th August), for further details visit the website of the documentary’s distributors: DogWoof where further information about the film and a list of venues showing the film can be found.

Neal Larson (Black Hills Institute) with “Sue’s” Lower Leg Bones – Left Leg

The red arrow points to a suspected healed break in the left fibula of "Sue".

The red arrow points to a suspected healed break in the left fibula of “Sue”.

Picture Credit: Peter Larson

As for the documentary’s title, why dinosaur 13?  The answer is simple, these fossils represent the thirteenth T. rex discovered, ironic really as the number thirteen is associated with bad luck in much of the western world and it could be argued that for Pete Larson and his colleagues 13 proved to be a very unlucky number indeed.

Dinosaur 13 Trailer

Video Credit: Youtube

Happy Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Happy Birthday Sir David!

Today, May 8th is the birthday of the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.  His contribution to natural history programme making has been immense and he remains an inspiration to us all.  We at Everything Dinosaur have put together a commemorative banner to celebrate the birthday of one of Britain’s greatest broadcasters.

Happy Birthday Sir David Attenborough

Many Happy Returns!

Many Happy Returns!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

On behalf of everyone at Everything Dinosaur, we wish Sir David, a very happy birthday.

 

Dr. Phil Manning to Present at the Bollington Science Festival

Cayman Caves to Badland Dinosaurs: Dr. Phil Manning

Dr. Phil Manning from Manchester University’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, will once again be presenting at the forthcoming Bollington Festival which takes place in May.  Dr. Manning who heads up the palaeontology research group at the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences has had a very busy year and his talk will focus on his travels over the last twelve months or so.  Entitled “Cayman Caves to Badland Dinosaurs”, Dr. Manning will discuss giant rats from the Cayman Islands as well as the continuing work on a number of Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils from the rugged, exposed outcrops of South Dakota.

The last time we caught up with Phil was when he was in America, at the “Duelling Dinosaurs of Montana” auction.  He was lobbying to try to ensure whoever purchased this remarkable pair of dinosaur fossils, that the specimens would be made available for further study.

To read more about the auction of the “Duelling Dinosaurs”: D-Day for Duelling Dinosaurs

Dr. Manning was busy with a number of media commitments, enthusiastically talking about the importance to science of these two dinosaur fossils.  He was even interviewed on the Simon Mayo radio 2 programme about this particular fossil discovery.  An excellent and engaging communicator, the talk, which is scheduled for Thursday 29th May (7.30 pm start) and will take place at the Bollington Civic Hall and it is bound to be one of the highlights of the whole of the Bollington Festival.

For further information: Cayman Caves to Badland Dinosaurs

Tickets for this event are priced at just £3 for adults and £1 for children.  The talk will be suitable for age 11+ and no doubt members of the audience will get the chance to ask questions at the end of the presentation.

Dr. Phil Manning Examining a Theropod Footprint

Potential Tyrannosaurid Print

Potential Tyrannosaurid Print

Picture Credit: Dr. Phil Manning (Manchester University)

The Bollington Festival covers a wide range of topics aimed at participants of all ages.  Themes which are extremely varied from flamenco, to brass bands, literature to comedy and it has a number of science events crammed in amongst the one hundred or so planned performances.  The festival is celebrating its fiftieth year and with the likes of Dr. Phil Manning talking about dinosaurs it is bound to be another “roaring success”.

Happy Birthday to Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs Celebrate Their 190th Birthday

Today, marks the 190th anniversary of the meeting of the Geological Society in London when the first formal presentation regarding the fossilised bones of an animal that was later to be described as a dinosaur was made.  On the evening of February 24th, the Society’s President the Reverend William Buckland rose to address the assembled audience and described the fossilised remains of what had been termed the “Stonesfield Reptile”.   This was William Buckland’s first meeting as president and one that would contain not only his description of a dinosaur (now known as Megalosaurus), but Buckland’s friend the Reverend Conybeare also presented to the society the fossilised remains of a Plesiosaurus that had been collected and prepared by Mary Anning, after its discovery at Lyme Regis.

The arrangements to view the fossils brought to London for the Society’s delectation did not go as planned.  For a start, Mary Anning had carefully encased the near complete Plesiosaurus specimen in plaster, this was contained in a crate measuring ten feet by six feet.  It proved too large, for it to be manhandled up the stairs to the allotted meeting room.  As Conybeare later wrote, “the gentlemen of the Society were obliged to satisfy their curiosity by peering at the creature in a dark passage by candlelight.”

The Plesiosaurus was named Plesiosaurus giganteus, the specimen resides in the collection of the Natural History Museum although it has been taxonomically re-assigned (P. dolichodeirus).

Then it was the turn of the President of the Society, William Buckland to address the members and invited guests.  The fossils of the “Saurian” as it was called had been known about for several years.  They had been safely stored at the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), and no doubt, Buckland would have got around to publishing a paper on them, but he may have been rushed into delivering his presentation as at the end of 1823, the discoveries of Gideon Mantell were gaining a lot of attention and Buckland wanted to be the first to present on this strange group of ancient reptiles.

The Reverend William Buckland – Dinosaurs Get Discussed at the Geological Society of London

The first person to scientifically describe a dinosaur.

The first person to scientifically describe a dinosaur.

As professor of Geology at Oxford University, the Reverend had been working on the fossils for about ten years.  Commencing his presentation, Buckland said:

“I am induced to lay before the Geological Society the representations of various portions of the skeleton of the fossil animal discovered at Stonesfield, in the hope that such persons as possess other parts of this extraordinary reptile may also transmit to the Society such further information as may lead to a more complete restoration of its osteology.”

Thus, in this way dinosaurs were introduced to the scientific world, although the term Dinosauria was not coined until the early 1840s.  The name of this dinosaur Megalosaurus (M. bucklandii) was formerly assigned in 1824, although the name had originally been used by another scientist James Parkinson when describing the fossilised jaw, other bones and teeth.

So, it is happy birthday to the dinosaurs, as on this evening 190 years ago the world was introduced to its first “terrible lizard”.  Happy birthday dinosaurs.

To commemorate this event Everything Dinosaur is giving one lucky person the chance to be the proud owner of the 1:40 scale Carcharodontosaurus dinosaur model, part of the Collecta Deluxe range of dinosaur models.

To have a chance to win this excellent thirty-two centimetre long model, the first off the production line, simply visit Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, leave a comment on the Carcharodontosaurus competition image and give our page a “like”.

On Friday March 14th we will put all the entrants names into a hat and pull out one lucky winner who will receive the world’s first 1:40 scale Carchardontosaurus dinosaur model to mark the birthday of the dinosaurs.

Click on the Image Below to Enter Everything Dinosaur’s Competition

Win this Amazing dinosaur model.

Win this Amazing dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Simply click on the picture above to enter Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page or click the link below:

Everything Dinosaur on Facebook: Visit Our Facebook Page to Enter Dinosaur Give-Away Competition

Good luck!  Please note this competition has now closed.

Paying Tribute to Dr. Bill Birch (Museum Victoria)

“Old Rocker” Set for Retirement

The turn of the year might be a time for new beginnings, but for one member of the Museum Victoria’s dedicated staff, the last day of December marks retirement after forty years as a curator.  The Museum’s (Museum Victoria, based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), longest serving employee, Senior Curator for Geosciences Dr. Bill Birch is going to be leaving the museum, but the dedicated geologist will still be making a contribution to Victoria’s geological heritage.

Very few visitors to a museum fully appreciate the hard work and sheer effort that goes into maintaining exhibits, looking after collections and managing departments.  With the news of Dr Birch’s retirement, we at Everything Dinosaur, who do a lot of work with museums and other institutions around the world, wanted to take time out to pay tribute to all the enthusiastic and long-serving members of museum staff who do so much to help with public outreach and education.

Dr. Bill Birch Set to Retire on December 31st
After forty years service Dr. Bill Birch retires.

After forty years service Dr. Bill Birch retires.

Picture Credit: Museum Victoria

Dr. Birch’s career at the Museum began in January 1974.  One of his first tasks was to update the historical geological collections and to apply modern approaches to curating as well as expanding the material held at the Museum via field trips, donations and acquisitions.  As well as assembling an extensive inventory of Victoria’s diverse geological make-up, he has built the international component of the collections through expeditions to Greenland, Siberia, Pakistan, and Canada.

He regards those collecting excursions as some of many highlights of those forty years, alongside the Dynamic Earth exhibition, which opened in Melbourne Museum in 2010.

Commenting on the highly successful exhibition, Dr. Birch stated:

“Before then, very few of our best specimens were on display for the public to see.  That exhibit has put some of our discoveries and acquisitions front and centre.”

Thanks to his efforts, in collaboration with colleagues, the Melbourne based museum has established a strong, world-wide reputation for geological research.  Bill, himself has written several books, had many hundreds of academic papers published and the Museum Victoria has more than forty “type” specimens of new minerals that Dr. Birch helped to formally describe amongst its much expanded collections.  With a life-long passion for geology, Bill describes never having felt unhappy about going to work and states that the Museum’s collections “became the foundation of my working life”.

Dr. Bill Birch on the Hunt for More Specimens
Dedicated geologist set to retire.

Dedicated geologist set to retire.

Picture Credit: Museum Victoria

One of the great joys about geology (and palaeontology for that matter), is that you are never too young or too old to get involved.  Official retirement might beckon after forty years of dedicated service, but for Dr. Birch there is still so much work for him to do.   He is expecting to work up to three days a week on further research as an Honorary Research Associate and Emeritus Curator with Museum Victoria.

Today, we pay tribute to all the those hard working, enthusiastic people, like Dr. Bill Birch, who have contributed so much over a their long careers in the Earth Sciences.

Have a long and happy retirement.

Remembering Sir Richard Owen – Naturalist, Anatomist and Palaeontologist

Sir Richard Owen Died This Day in 1899

Today, 18th December, marks the anniversary of the death of Sir Richard Owen, the Lancashire born scientist who is credited with coining the term “Dinosauria” and for helping to found the Natural History Museum in London. Born in Lancaster in 1804, Richard Owen trained as a doctor and went on to become an expert in comparative anatomy.  Regarded as a pioneer of vertebrate palaeontology, he did much to assist with public learning and to advance the study of ancient, long extinct fauna.  Sir Richard was instrumental in developing the science of palaeontology, although he was often criticised for his willingness to discredit fellow academics and to take plaudits for the work of others.  He was frequently accused of and found guilty of plagiarism.

Sir Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen regarded by many as a pioneer in the science of palaeontology.

Sir Richard Owen regarded by many as a pioneer in the science of palaeontology.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

In the picture, Sir Richard Owen is holding leg bones from an extinct, flightless bird from New Zealand (Moa).  During his long and illustrious career he received many accolades including a Knighthood.  His contempt for the work of others, his willingness to claim credit for studies not necessarily carried out by himself and some of the underhand tactics used by Owen, may have led history to portray him as a flawed character but he remains one of the most significant and influential British scientists of the Victorian age.

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