Category: Famous Figures

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.

Sir David Attenborough to be Awarded the Freedom of the City of Bristol

Award for Naturalist and Broadcaster

Sir David Attenborough is to be awarded the honour of the Freedom of the City of Bristol in a ceremony at the City Hall on Tuesday, 17th of December.  This is the highest accolade that the city can bestow and Sir David will be joining an elite club of scientists, public figures and sports personalities who hold this honorary position.  Other holders of the Freedom of the City of Bristol are the British theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Peter Higgs (he of Higgs Boson fame) and Kipchoge (Kip) Keino the head of the Kenyan Olympic Committee.  Kip Keino, a top athlete in the 1970′s did much to establish Kenya as a world force in middle and long distance running.  He was awarded the Freedom of the City last year, when Bristol hosted the Kenyan Olympic and Paralympic teams as they prepared for London 2012.

Sir David Attenborough Honoured by the City of Bristol

Sir David is honoured by a city in the south-west of the UK.

Sir David is honoured by a city in the south-west of the UK.

Sir David’s award is in recognition of his close association with the BBC’s Natural History Unit which is based in Whiteladies Road, Bristol.  The Natural History Unit has been located in the city since its inception back in 1957.  The BBC’s Natural History Unit produces about fifty hours of television output each year as well as a great many radio programmes and contributions to radio programme content.

Asked to comment on this award, one of many such accolades the broadcaster has received after some sixty years of work in television, Sir David stated:

“It’s a pleasure to receive this honorary title from Bristol, a city I love to visit.  To be made a freeman of the city is a great privilege and one I’m delighted to accept.”

Sir David can be heard on radio 4 next week, when he talks to wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson about his life in sound.  One of his first jobs in the Natural History Unit was as a sound recordist.  The interview was recorded in Qatar, where Sir David is making a film about the captive breeding of Birds of Paradise.

Congratulations to you Sir, look out for those Bristol hills.

Remembering the Contribution of Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel  Wallace 8th January 1823 to 7th November 1913

Today marks the centenary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace, one of the most influential academics of the 19th Century, a man who may be largely forgotten by the general public today, but his contribution to our understanding of the natural world was immense.  It was Wallace who jointly published ideas on natural selection and the origin of species with Charles Darwin.  At that fateful meeting of the Linnean Society on July 1st 1858, neither Darwin or Wallace were actually present.  Their ideas were summarised and proposed by close friends of Darwin, Charles Lyell (later to be known as “Darwin’s bulldog” due to his fervent support of Darwinism) and Joseph Hooker.  Wallace was in south-east Asia at the time and was unaware of the presentation, or indeed what happened after publication of the Society’s papers in August.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article marking the 150th anniversary of the July 1st 1858 Linnean Society Meeting”: An Important Date in the History of Earth Sciences

It was whilst on yet another expedition, (he spent much of his middle years overseas), this time exploring the geography and natural history of Indonesia, that Wallace came to the same conclusions about speciation and how organisms change over time as Darwin.  From his detailed studies and meticulous observations Wallace was aware of variations in populations of organisms.  He also knew that many more progeny are produced, far more than are needed to sustain populations, but most do not survive long enough to reproduce themselves.

From these insightful starting points, Wallace concluded that if an environment changes or some other pressures are imposed on any given population, then those individuals who happen to possess characteristics that make them better suited to coping with the changes, are likely to survive and reproduce, thus passing on their characteristics to their offspring.  Such characteristics would therefore become increasingly common in any given population and this was the mechanism that brought about new species, this was the driving force behind what we now know as evolution.

Unbeknown to Wallace, Darwin had independently come to same conclusions and whilst Darwin and Darwinism is very well known, Alfred Russel Wallace remains relatively obscure.

Time to help change this, today on the 100th anniversary of the great man’s death, a statue is to be unveiled by Sir David Attenborough at the Natural History Museum which honours Wallace and his scientific contribution.  The Wallace100 was set up to promote the legacy of one of Victorian society’s most influential and important scientists and we at Everything Dinosaur, are paying tribute to the man in our own small way.

The Wallace 100 Logo

Commemorating the Life of a Great Scientist

Picture Credit: George Beccaloni (Natural History Museum – London)

One of the reasons cited for Darwin wanting to publish on the “Origin of Species” was correspondence that he received from Wallace outlining the same thoughts and ideas that Darwin had.  Darwin’s travels on  the “Beagle” as a naturalist and companion to Fitzroy, the ship’s captain, had led to him theorising along the same lines as Wallace, but Darwin had not published yet.  It seems sad that Wallace has been largely forgotten.  His contribution to science was not simply restricted to devising a mechanism for evolutionary change.  During his lifetime he discovered and described thousands of new species, championed scientific theory, published dozens and dozens of books, mapped large parts of the globe that had not been explored, worked tirelessly to spread and explain new scientific ideas and described the geographical distribution of animals and plants on a continental scale.

The Natural History Museum in London houses a large part of Wallace’s specimens, collected and carefully catalogued on his many travels.  He collected over 100,000 insect specimens whilst in south-east Asia, many of these specimens were entirely new to science.  The butterfly on the Wallace100 logo celebrates his fascination with these creatures.  The logo represents Wallace’s Golden Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera croesus), it is just one of 130 species and sub-species of south-east Asian butterflies which Wallace named.  Ironically, Wallace caught the first male specimen of this gorgeous gold-coloured butterfly in 1859 whilst on the Indonesian Island of Becan, the same year that Darwin published his book “On the Origin of Species”.

A Portrait of the Elderly Alfred Wallace

Marking the centenary of his death.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum – London

The picture above is of Wallace’s memorial portrait which was presented to the Natural History Museum by the Wallace Memorial Committee and unveiled by Sir Charles S Sherrington, President of the Royal Society in 1923.  Soon Alfred Russel Wallace is to have a statue on display to the public at the Darwin Centre.

On the 100th anniversary of Wallace’s death, Sir David Attenborough will be unveiling a bronze statue to commemorate Wallace and his achievements, as Sir David himself remarks, Wallace was:

“the most admirable character in the history of science.”

On the centenary of his passing, there will be many others, far better qualified than us to mark this event, however, Everything Dinosaur wanted to take this opportunity to take a moment to remember Alfred Russel Wallace – explorer, geographer, map maker, architect, intellectual, naturalist, visionary, scientist, a man deserving of greater recognition in the wider community.

Here’s to you sir!

Tracing the Descendants of the Iceman

Austrian Scientists Identify Living Relatives of Oetzi the 5,300 Year-Old Iceman

He may have lived during the Neolithic, otherwise known as the New Stone Age, but the frozen corpse of a man found in the Italian Alps back in 1991 has enabled scientists to determine that nineteen Tyrolean men alive today are related to this ancient human.  His body preserved in ice, has enabled scientists to discover a great deal about Europeans in the Neolithic, called Oetzi by the scientists, the genome of this individual has now been fully mapped and studies of the male population of the Tyrol reveals that a number can be identified as living descendants.

The ancestry was established by DNA analysis carried out by researchers from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University (Austria).  The body of a middle-aged man was found in the Italian Alps more than twenty years ago.  At first, it was thought that the corpse was that of a climber who had got into difficulties and perished on the mountain, but tests later revealed that this was the remains of a man who had lived more than five thousand years ago.

International researchers have studied the body and those artefacts found with it, team members at Everything Dinosaur have written a number of articles regarding the progress of the research that reveals such fascinating insights into this person’s eye colour, their lactose intolerance and their predisposition to heart disease.

Oetzi the Iceman – Tracing the Relatives

Ancient body reveals amazing insights into the New Stone Age

Ancient body reveals amazing insights into the New Stone Age

Picture Credit: BBC News

To read a recent article on Oetzi the Iceman: Iceman Reveals His Secrets

As far as Everything Dinosaur team members can tell, the related individuals were identified from tests on blood donors in the Tyrol region.  These men have not been informed about their relationship to Oetzi, whom, according to some researchers may have been a tribal chief.

The Austrian Press Agency states that a particular, distinct genetic mutation was matched between the Iceman and the nineteen men.  Scientists from the Institute of Legal Medicine of the Innsbruck Medical University are confident that more related males will be found when tests are carried out on blood samples from males living in the Swiss region of Engadine and from the South Tyrol of Italy.

The genetic mutation that permitted the connection between a Stone Age man and people living today, is quite rare in modern populations.  Of the 3,700 samples of blood tested less than 0.52% of the population had the mutation.  Women were not included in this particular research project, as a different procedure would have been required to match their genes and confirm the ancestral connection.  Oetzi is the oldest, natural European mummy found to date and as such he has permitted scientists an unprecedented window into the world of New Stone Age people at around 3,300 BC.

Intriguingly, an arrow head was found embedded in his body, was this an old wound or was this how he was killed.? Researchers still debate whether he died approximately where his corpse was found or was he taken up the mountain pass to be buried by members of his tribe?

Swaledale Fossil Limestone for King Richard’s Tomb

Leicester Cathedral Publishes Plans for the Tomb of King Richard III – Fossils to Play a Role

Church authorities at Leicester Cathedral have announced plans for the burial tomb of King Richard III.  The impressive tomb, is the proposed final resting place of Richard of York who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in in 1485, although there is a strong campaign to have Richard’s remains returned to York for burial.  Leicester Cathedral’s  plans are for a stone tomb, carved with a deep cross and set upon an engraving of a white Yorkshire rose.  The project is likely to cost something like £1.3 million to complete.

The stone that is intended to be used is Swaledale limestone, highly appropriate as this stone is from Swaledale (naturally), part of the magnificent North Yorkshire countryside.  Although this stone comes in various colours, greys, off-white and even with a blueish hue it is highly fossiliferous.  The limestone was formed at the bottom of a shallow sea that covered much of what was to become the United Kingdom back in the early Carboniferous geological period.  It is coarse grained and contains a substantial amount of fossil remains of  invertebrate marine creatures, most notably the flexible stems of sea lilies otherwise known as crinoids.  Crinoids belong to the same phylum as starfishes and sea urchins, they look superficially like plants (hence the name sea lily), but they are in fact an animal.  Entirely marine, crinoids have been around since the Cambrian and can still be found today.  Typically, crinoids consisted of a hold fast to anchor them to the sea-bed and a flexible stem made up of calcite plates (called stem ossicles or columnals), which supported umbrella-like branching tubular arms that were able to trap food items in passing currents.  When the creature dies, the minute organic fibres that held the stem ossicles together rot and the stem disintegrates.  In the ancient limestone beds of Swaledale crinoids were so numerous that their fossils form a substantial part of the rocks.

When polished, the fossils show up very clearly and the details of the stem ossicles can be seen very clearly.

Fossil Rich Carboniferous Limestone 

Rock fit for a King!

Rock fit for a King!

Picture Credit: Open University

We are not sure whether there is any record of Richard of York being an avid collector of fossils, but if the tomb is built, visitors to the Cathedral will be able to view evidence of  life in a prehistoric sea as well as learning about the last Plantagenet King of England.  T

The fossilised stems of crinoids are also known as “St Cuthbert’s beads”.  St Cuthbert was a monk at the monastery located at Lindisfarne, otherwise called Holy Island (Northumberland), local legend states the Cuthbert would make rosaries by threading a thin piece of thread through columnals that he had collected on the shore.

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates

David Attenborough on Television Screens Once Again

For those of us in the United Kingdom, look out for David Attenborough’s new television series which starts on Friday 20th September and is being shown on BBC 2 (9pm).  This two-part documentary series which has the same format as the 2011 documentary series called “David Attenborough’s First Life” takes viewers through the evolution of the vertebrates.   The evolution of animals with backbones is one of the greatest stories in natural history. Brand-new discoveries of fossils, including some amazing fossil discoveries from China, combined with stunning CGI and cinematography enable Sir David to tell this fascinating story and reveal that humans (Homo sapiens) are just part of an amazing lineage of animals that dates back some 500 million years or so.

In the first episode, entitled “From The Seas To The Skies”, David Attenborough uses new fossil evidence to unlock nature’s most extraordinary story, the incredible ascent of the animal group that now dominates our planet, the vertebrates.  The origins of the vertebrates lie in primitive fish that once swam in ancient seas but remarkable advances allowed them to make the radical move onto land, and then take to the skies with the advent of flight.

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates

Sir David tells the story of the vertebrates.

Sir David tells the story of the vertebrates.

Picture Credit: BBC

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have rated this series ten out of ten, we highly recommend watching either on the television or via other channels such as online.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of BBC Media Centre for the compilation of this article.

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