Richard Owen

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For other uses, see Richard Owen (disambiguation). Richard Owen_sentence_0

Richard Owen_table_infobox_0

Richard OwenRichard Owen_header_cell_0_0_0
BornRichard Owen_header_cell_0_1_0 (1804-07-20)20 July 1804

Lancaster, EnglandRichard Owen_cell_0_1_1

DiedRichard Owen_header_cell_0_2_0 18 December 1892(1892-12-18) (aged 88)

Richmond Park, London, EnglandRichard Owen_cell_0_2_1

NationalityRichard Owen_header_cell_0_3_0 BritishRichard Owen_cell_0_3_1
Alma materRichard Owen_header_cell_0_4_0 University of Edinburgh

St Bartholomew's HospitalRichard Owen_cell_0_4_1

Known forRichard Owen_header_cell_0_5_0 Coining the term dinosaur, presenting them as a distinct taxonomic group.

British Museum of Natural HistoryRichard Owen_cell_0_5_1

AwardsRichard Owen_header_cell_0_6_0 Wollaston Medal (1838)

Royal Medal (1846) Copley Medal (1851) Baly Medal (1869) Clarke Medal (1878) Linnean Medal (1888)Richard Owen_cell_0_6_1

FieldsRichard Owen_header_cell_0_7_0 Comparative anatomy

Paleontology Zoology BiologyRichard Owen_cell_0_7_1

Sir Richard Owen KCB FRMS FRS (20 July 1804 – 18 December 1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist. Richard Owen_sentence_1

Despite being a controversial figure, Owen is generally considered to have been an outstanding naturalist with a remarkable gift for interpreting fossils. Richard Owen_sentence_2

Owen produced a vast array of scientific work, but is probably best remembered today for coining the word Dinosauria (meaning "Terrible Reptile" or "Fearfully Great Reptile"). Richard Owen_sentence_3

An outspoken critic of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, Owen agreed with Darwin that evolution occurred, but thought it was more complex than outlined in Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Richard Owen_sentence_4

Owen's approach to evolution can be seen as having anticipated the issues that have gained greater attention with the recent emergence of evolutionary developmental biology. Richard Owen_sentence_5

Owen was the first president of the Microscopical Society of London in 1839 and edited many issues of its journal – then known as The Microscopic Journal. Richard Owen_sentence_6

Owen also campaigned for the natural specimens in the British Museum to be given a new home. Richard Owen_sentence_7

This resulted in the establishment, in 1881, of the now world-famous Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. Richard Owen_sentence_8

Bill Bryson argues that, "by making the Natural History Museum an institution for everyone, Owen transformed our expectations of what museums are for". Richard Owen_sentence_9

While he made several contributions to science and public learning, Owen was a controversial figure among his contemporaries, such as Thomas Henry Huxley. Richard Owen_sentence_10

His later career was tainted by controversies, many of which involved accusations that he took credit for other people's work. Richard Owen_sentence_11

Biography Richard Owen_section_0

Owen was born in Lancaster in 1804, one of six children of a West Indian Merchant named Richard Owen (1754–1809). Richard Owen_sentence_12

His mother, Catherine Longworth (nee Parrin), was descended from Huguenots and he was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. Richard Owen_sentence_13

In 1820, he was apprenticed to a local surgeon and apothecary and, in 1824, he proceeded as a medical student to the University of Edinburgh. Richard Owen_sentence_14

He left the university in the following year and completed his medical course in St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, where he came under the influence of the eminent surgeon John Abernethy. Richard Owen_sentence_15

In July 1835 Owen married Caroline Amelia Clift in St Pancras by whom he had one son, William Owen. Richard Owen_sentence_16

He outlived both wife and son. Richard Owen_sentence_17

After his death, in 1892, he was survived by his three grandchildren and daughter-in-law Emily Owen, to whom he left much of his £33,000 fortune. Richard Owen_sentence_18

Upon completing his education, he accepted the position of assistant to William Clift, conservator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, on the suggestion of Abernethy. Richard Owen_sentence_19

This occupation led him to abandon medical practice in favor of scientific research. Richard Owen_sentence_20

He prepared a series of catalogues of the Hunterian Collection, in the Royal College of Surgeons and, in the course of this work, he acquired a knowledge of comparative anatomy that facilitated his researches on the remains of extinct animals. Richard Owen_sentence_21

In 1836, Owen was appointed Hunterian professor, in the Royal College of Surgeons and, in 1849, he succeeded Clift as conservator. Richard Owen_sentence_22

He held the latter office until 1856, when he became superintendent of the natural history department of the British Museum. Richard Owen_sentence_23

He then devoted much of his energies to a great scheme for a National Museum of Natural History, which eventually resulted in the removal of the natural history collections of the British Museum to a new building at South Kensington: the British Museum (Natural History) (now the Natural History Museum). Richard Owen_sentence_24

He retained office until the completion of this work, in December, 1883, when he was made a knight of the Order of the Bath. Richard Owen_sentence_25

He lived quietly in retirement at Sheen Lodge, Richmond Park, until his death in 1892. Richard Owen_sentence_26

His career was tainted by accusations that he failed to give credit to the work of others and even tried to appropriate it in his own name. Richard Owen_sentence_27

This came to a head in 1846, when he was awarded the Royal Medal for a paper he had written on belemnites. Richard Owen_sentence_28

Owen had failed to acknowledge that the belemnite had been discovered by Chaning Pearce, an amateur biologist, four years earlier. Richard Owen_sentence_29

As a result of the ensuing scandal, he was voted off the councils of the Zoological Society and the Royal Society. Richard Owen_sentence_30

Owen always tended to support orthodox men of science and the status quo. Richard Owen_sentence_31

The royal family presented him with the cottage in Richmond Park and Robert Peel put him on the Civil List. Richard Owen_sentence_32

In 1843, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Richard Owen_sentence_33

In 1844 he became an associated member of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands. Richard Owen_sentence_34

When this Institute became the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1851, he joined as foreign member. Richard Owen_sentence_35

He died at home on 15 December 1892 and is buried in the churchyard at Ham near Richmond, Surrey. Richard Owen_sentence_36

Work on invertebrates Richard Owen_section_1

While occupied with the cataloguing of the Hunterian collection, Owen did not confine his attention to the preparations before him but also seized every opportunity to dissect fresh subjects. Richard Owen_sentence_37

He was allowed to examine all animals that died in London Zoo's gardens and, when the Zoo began to publish scientific proceedings, in 1831, he was the most prolific contributor of anatomical papers. Richard Owen_sentence_38

His first notable publication, however, was his Memoir on the Pearly Nautilus (London, 1832), which was soon recognized as a classic. Richard Owen_sentence_39

Henceforth, he continued to make important contributions to every department of comparative anatomy and zoology for a period of over fifty years. Richard Owen_sentence_40

In the sponges, Owen was the first to describe the now well-known Venus' Flower Basket or Euplectella (1841, 1857). Richard Owen_sentence_41

Among Entozoa, his most noteworthy discovery was that of Trichina spiralis (1835), the parasite infesting the muscles of man in the disease now termed trichinosis (see also, however, Sir James Paget). Richard Owen_sentence_42

Of Brachiopoda he made very special studies, which much advanced knowledge and settled the classification that has long been accepted. Richard Owen_sentence_43

Among Mollusca, he described not only the pearly nautilus but also Spirula (1850) and other Cephalopoda, both living and extinct, and it was he who proposed the universally-accepted subdivision of this class into the two orders of Dibranchiata and Tetrabranchiata (1832). Richard Owen_sentence_44

In 1852 Owen named Protichnites – the oldest footprints found on land. Richard Owen_sentence_45

Applying his knowledge of anatomy, he correctly postulated that these Cambrian trackways were made by an extinct type of arthropod, and he did this more than 150 years before any fossils of the animal were found. Richard Owen_sentence_46

Owen envisioned a resemblance of the animal to the living arthropod Limulus, which was the subject of a special memoir he wrote in 1873. Richard Owen_sentence_47

Fish, reptiles, birds, and naming of dinosaurs Richard Owen_section_2

Owen's technical descriptions of the Vertebrata were still more numerous and extensive than those of the invertebrate animals. Richard Owen_sentence_48

His Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Vertebrates (3 vols. London 1866–1868) was indeed the result of more personal research than any similar work since Georges Cuvier's Leçons d'anatomie comparée. Richard Owen_sentence_49

He not only studied existing forms but also devoted great attention to the remains of extinct groups, and followed Cuvier, the pioneer of vertebrate paleontology. Richard Owen_sentence_50

Early in his career, he made exhaustive studies of teeth of existing and extinct animals and published his profusely illustrated work on Odontography (1840–1845). Richard Owen_sentence_51

He discovered and described the remarkably complex structure of the teeth of the extinct animals which he named Labyrinthodontia. Richard Owen_sentence_52

Among his writings on fish, his memoir on the African lungfish, which he named Protopterus, laid the foundations for the recognition of the Dipnoi by Johannes Müller. Richard Owen_sentence_53

He also later pointed out the serial connection between the teleostean and ganoid fishes, grouping them in one sub-class, the Teleostomi. Richard Owen_sentence_54

Most of his work on reptiles related to the skeletons of extinct forms and his chief memoirs, on British specimens, were reprinted in a connected series in his History of British Fossil Reptiles (4 vols. London 1849–1884). Richard Owen_sentence_55

He published the first important general account of the great group of Mesozoic land-reptiles, and he coined the name Dinosauria from Greek δεινός (deinos) "terrible, powerful, wondrous" + σαύρος (sauros) "lizard". Richard Owen_sentence_56

Owen used 3 genera to define the dinosaurs: the carnivorous Megalosaurus, the herbivorous Iguanodon and armoured Hylaeosaurus', specimens uncovered in southern England. Richard Owen_sentence_57

He also first recognized the curious early Mesozoic synapsids, with affinities both to amphibians and mammals, which he termed Anomodontia (the mammal-like synapsids, Therapsida). Richard Owen_sentence_58

Most of these were obtained from South Africa, beginning in 1845 (Dicynodon) and eventually furnished materials for his Catalogue of the Fossil Reptilia of South Africa, issued by the British Museum, in 1876. Richard Owen_sentence_59

Among his writings on birds, his classical memoir on the kiwi (1840–1846), a long series of papers on the extinct Dinornithidae of New Zealand, other memoirs on Aptornis, the takahe, the dodo and the great auk, may be especially mentioned. Richard Owen_sentence_60

His monograph on Archaeopteryx (1863), the long-tailed, toothed bird from the Bavarian lithographic stone, is also an epoch-making work. Richard Owen_sentence_61

With Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, Owen helped create the first life-size sculptures depicting dinosaurs as he thought they might have appeared. Richard Owen_sentence_62

Some models were initially created for the Great Exhibition of 1851, but 33 were eventually produced when the Crystal Palace was relocated to Sydenham, in South London. Richard Owen_sentence_63

Owen famously hosted a dinner for 21 prominent men of science inside the hollow concrete Iguanodon on New Year's Eve 1853. Richard Owen_sentence_64

However, in 1849, a few years before his death in 1852, Gideon Mantell had realised that Iguanodon, of which he was the discoverer, was not a heavy, pachyderm-like animal, as Owen was proposing, but had slender forelimbs; his death left him unable to participate in the creation of the Crystal Palace dinosaur sculptures, and so Owen's vision of dinosaurs became that seen by the public. Richard Owen_sentence_65

He had nearly two dozen lifesize sculptures of various prehistoric animals built out of concrete sculpted over a steel and brick framework; two Iguanodon, one standing and one resting on its belly, were included. Richard Owen_sentence_66

Work on mammals Richard Owen_section_3

Owen was granted right of first refusal on any freshly dead animal at the London Zoo. Richard Owen_sentence_67

His wife once arrived home to find the carcass of a newly deceased rhinoceros in her front hallway. Richard Owen_sentence_68

With regard to living mammals, the more striking of Owen's contributions relate to the monotremes, marsupials and the anthropoid apes. Richard Owen_sentence_69

He was also the first to recognize and name the two natural groups of typical Ungulate, the odd-toed (Perissodactyla) and the even-toed (Artiodactyla), while describing some fossil remains, in 1848. Richard Owen_sentence_70

Most of his writings on mammals, however, deal with extinct forms, to which his attention seems to have been first directed by the remarkable fossils collected by Charles Darwin, in South America. Richard Owen_sentence_71

Toxodon, from the pampas, was then described and gave the earliest clear evidence of an extinct generalized hoof animal, a pachyderm with affinities to the Rodentia, Edentata and herbivorous Cetacea. Richard Owen_sentence_72

Owen's interest in South American extinct mammals then led to the recognition of the giant armadillo, which he named Glyptodon (1839) and to classic memoirs on the giant ground-sloths, Mylodon (1842) and Megatherium (1860), besides other important contributions. Richard Owen_sentence_73

Owen also first described the false killer whale in 1863. Richard Owen_sentence_74

At the same time, Sir Thomas Mitchell's discovery of fossil bones, in New South Wales, provided material for the first of Owen's long series of papers on the extinct mammals of Australia, which were eventually reprinted in book-form in 1877. Richard Owen_sentence_75

He described Diprotodon (1838) and Thylacoleo (1859), and extinct species kangaroos and wombats of gigantic size. Richard Owen_sentence_76

Most fossil material found in Australia and New Zealand was initially sent to England for expert examination, and with the assistance of the local collectors Owen became the first authority on the palaeontology of the region. Richard Owen_sentence_77

While occupied with so much material from abroad, Owen was also busily collecting facts for an exhaustive work on similar fossils from the British Isles and, in 1844–1846, he published his History of British Fossil Mammals and Birds, which was followed by many later memoirs, notably his Monograph of the Fossil Mammalia of the Mesozoic Formations (Palaeont. Richard Owen_sentence_78

Soc., 1871). Richard Owen_sentence_79

One of his latest publications was a little work entitled Antiquity of Man as deduced from the Discovery of a Human Skeleton during Excavations of the Docks at Tilbury (London, 1884). Richard Owen_sentence_80

Owen, Darwin, and the theory of evolution Richard Owen_section_4

Legacy Richard Owen_section_5

Owen's detailed memoirs and descriptions require laborious attention in reading, on account of their complex terminology and ambiguous modes of expression. Richard Owen_sentence_81

The fact that very little of his terminology has found universal favour causes them to be more generally neglected than they otherwise would be. Richard Owen_sentence_82

At the same time, it must be remembered that he was a pioneer in concise anatomical nomenclature and, so far at least as the vertebrate skeleton is concerned, his terms were based on a carefully reasoned philosophical scheme, which first clearly distinguished between the now-familiar phenomena of analogy and homology. Richard Owen_sentence_83

Owen's theory of the Archetype and Homologies of the Vertebrate Skeleton (1848), subsequently illustrated also by his little work On the Nature of Limbs (1849), regarded the vertebrate frame as consisting of a series of fundamentally identical segments, each modified according to its position and functions. Richard Owen_sentence_84

Much of it was fanciful and failed when tested by the facts of embryology, which Owen systematically ignored, throughout his work. Richard Owen_sentence_85

However, though an imperfect and distorted view of certain great truths, it possessed a distinct value at the time of its conception. Richard Owen_sentence_86

To the discussion of the deeper problems of biological philosophy, he made scarcely any direct and definite contributions. Richard Owen_sentence_87

His generalities rarely extended beyond strict comparative anatomy, the phenomena of adaptation to function and the facts of geographical or geological distribution. Richard Owen_sentence_88

His lecture on virgin reproduction or parthenogenesis, however, published in 1849, contained the essence of the germ plasm theory, elaborated later by August Weismann and he made several vague statements concerning the geological succession of genera and species of animals and their possible derivation one from another. Richard Owen_sentence_89

He referred, especially, to the changes exhibited by the successive forerunners of the crocodiles (1884) and horses (1868) but it has never become clear how much of the modern doctrines of organic evolution he admitted. Richard Owen_sentence_90

He contented himself with the bare remark that "the inductive demonstration of the nature and mode of operation of the laws governing life would henceforth be the great aim of the philosophical naturalist." Richard Owen_sentence_91

He was the first director in Natural History Museum in London and his statue was in the main hall there until 2009, when it was replaced with a statue of Darwin. Richard Owen_sentence_92

A bust of Owen by Alfred Gilbert (1896) is held in the Hunterian Museum, London. Richard Owen_sentence_93

There is a blue plaque in his honour at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. Richard Owen_sentence_94

A species of Central American lizard, Diploglossus owenii, was named in his honor by French herpetologists André Marie Constant Duméril and Gabriel Bibron in 1839. Richard Owen_sentence_95

Conflicts with his peers Richard Owen_section_6

Owen has been described by some as a malicious, dishonest and hateful individual. Richard Owen_sentence_96

He has been described in one biography as being a "social experimenter with a penchant for sadism. Richard Owen_sentence_97

Addicted to controversy and driven by arrogance and jealousy". Richard Owen_sentence_98

Deborah Cadbury stated that Owen possessed an "almost fanatical egoism with a callous delight in savaging his critics." Richard Owen_sentence_99

Indeed, an Oxford University professor once described Owen as "a damned liar. Richard Owen_sentence_100

He lied for God and for malice". Richard Owen_sentence_101

Gideon Mantell claimed it was "a pity a man so talented should be so dastardly and envious". Richard Owen_sentence_102

Owen famously credited himself and Georges Cuvier with the discovery of the Iguanodon, completely excluding any credit for the original discoverer of the dinosaur, Gideon Mantell. Richard Owen_sentence_103

This was not the first or last time Owen would falsely claim a discovery as his own. Richard Owen_sentence_104

It has also been suggested by some authors, including Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything, that Owen even used his influence in the Royal Society to ensure that many of Mantell’s research papers were never published. Richard Owen_sentence_105

Owen was finally dismissed from the Royal Society's Zoological Council for plagiarism. Richard Owen_sentence_106

When Mantell suffered an accident that left him permanently crippled, Owen exploited the opportunity by renaming several dinosaurs which had already been named by Mantell, even having the audacity to claim credit for their discovery himself. Richard Owen_sentence_107

When Mantell finally died in 1852, an obituary carrying no byline derided Mantell as little more than a mediocre scientist, who brought forth few notable contributions. Richard Owen_sentence_108

The obituary’s authorship was universally attributed to Owen by every geologist. Richard Owen_sentence_109

The president of the Geological Society claimed that it "bespeaks of the lamentable coldness of the heart of the writer". Richard Owen_sentence_110

Owen was subsequently denied the presidency of the society for his repeated and pointed antagonism towards Gideon Mantell. Richard Owen_sentence_111

Even more extraordinary was the way Owen ignored the genuine scientific content of Mantell's work. Richard Owen_sentence_112

For example, despite the paucity of finds Mantell had worked out that some dinosaurs were bipedal, including Iguanodon. Richard Owen_sentence_113

This remarkable insight was totally ignored by Owen, whose instructions for the Crystal Palace models by Waterhouse Hawkins portrayed Iguanodon as grossly overweight and quadrupedal. Richard Owen_sentence_114

Mantell did not live to witness the discovery in 1878 of articulated skeletons in a Belgium coal-mine that showed Iguanodon was mostly bipedal (and in that stance could use its thumb for defence). Richard Owen_sentence_115

Owen made no comment or retraction; he never did on any errors he made. Richard Owen_sentence_116

Moreover, since the earliest known dinosaurs were bipedal, Mantell's idea was indeed insightful. Richard Owen_sentence_117

Despite originally starting out on good terms with Darwin, Owen was highly critical of the Origin in large part because Darwin did not refer much to the previous scientific theories of evolution that had been proposed by people like Chambers and himself, and instead compared the theory of evolution by natural selection with the unscientific theory in the Bible. Richard Owen_sentence_118

Another reason for his criticism of the Origin, some historians claim, was that Owen felt upstaged by Darwin and supporters such as Huxley, and his judgment was clouded by jealousy. Richard Owen_sentence_119

Owen in Darwin's opinion was "Spiteful, extremely malignant, clever; the Londoners say he is mad with envy because my book is so talked about". Richard Owen_sentence_120

"It is painful to be hated in the intense degree with which Owen hates me". Richard Owen_sentence_121

Owen also resorted to the same subterfuge he used against Mantell, writing another anonymous article in the Edinburgh Review in April 1860. Richard Owen_sentence_122

In the article, Owen was critical of Darwin for not offering many new observations, and heaped praise (in the third person) upon himself, while being careful not to associate any particular comment with his own name. Richard Owen_sentence_123

Owen did praise, however, the Origin's description of Darwin's work on insect behavior and pigeon breeding as Huxley, Thomas H., (1861), "On the Zoological Relations of Man with the Lower Animals", Natural History Review 1: 67–84. Richard Owen_sentence_124

"real gems". Richard Owen_sentence_125

Owen was also a party to the threat to end government funding of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew botanical collection (see Attacks on Hooker and Kew), orchestrated by Acton Smee Ayrton: Richard Owen_sentence_126

Richard Owen_description_list_0

  • "There is no doubt that rivalry resulted between the British Museum, where there was the very important Herbarium of the Department of Botany, and Kew. The rivalry at times became extremely personal, especially between Joseph Hooker and Owen... At the root was Owen’s feeling that Kew should be subordinate to the British Museum (and to Owen) and should not be allowed to develop as an independent scientific institution with the advantage of a great botanic garden."Richard Owen_item_0_0

It has been suggested by some authors that the portrayal of Owen as a vindictive and treacherous man was fostered and encouraged by his rivals (particularly Darwin, Hooker and Huxley) and may be somewhat undeserved. Richard Owen_sentence_127

In the first part of his career he was regarded rightly as one of the great scientific figures of the age. Richard Owen_sentence_128

In the second part of his career his reputation slipped. Richard Owen_sentence_129

This was not due solely to his underhanded dealings with colleagues; it was also due to serious errors of scientific judgement that were discovered and publicized. Richard Owen_sentence_130

A fine example was his decision to classify man in a separate subclass of the Mammalia (see Man's place in nature). Richard Owen_sentence_131

In this Owen had no supporters at all. Richard Owen_sentence_132

Also, his unwillingness to come off the fence concerning evolution became increasingly damaging to his reputation as time went on. Richard Owen_sentence_133

Owen continued working after his official retirement at the age of 79, but he never recovered the good opinions he had garnered in his younger days. Richard Owen_sentence_134


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard Owen.