GEOL 104 Dinosaurs: A Natural History

Fall Semester 2006
The History of Prehistory: Dinosaur research through time

First major dinosaur discovery, in Britain, by Reverend William Buckland:

Next major discovery, in the Weald region of southern England, by husband and wife team Dr. Gideon and Mary Ann Mantell:

Third major discovery, also in the Weald region and also by the Mantells:

Other discoveries were made on the European continents in the 1830s and 1840s.

In 1841, Sir Richard Owen gave public talks about the fossil reptiles of Britain. Concluded that Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus formed their own distinct group. Proposed the name Dinosauria (“fearfully great lizards”) for this group when he wrote up talk (in 1842)

In the 1850s the Great Exposition. Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins sculpted Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus (and other non-dinosaurs) under Owen’s guidance. Dinosaurs became popular subjects for popular science, political cartoons, etc.

Early North American discoveries:

In 1858, first major North American dinosaur fossil:

First recognition of bipedal dinosaurs. In 1866, another New Jersey discovery (this time of bipedal meat-eater) described by Edward Drinker Cope of Philadelphia. Eventually named Dryptosaurus.

Major important rivalry between Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh of Yale University: The vast numbers of fossils discovered formed the central collections of major museums and greatly increased the knowledge of extinct life (including some of the first complete dinosaur fossils).

In Europe, new discoveries were also being made:

Beginning of 20th Century, new, wealthy museums sponsored major expeditions to American West.

Also, the AMNH and various European museums began the era of imperial paleontology (major expeditions to foreign lands, to bring fossils back to the home institution)

In the 1920s, beginning of Great Depression and WWII led to decline in large scale paleontological digs.

Also, dinosaur science began to lose its scientific appeal.

In 1960s, John Ostrom of Yale University:

1970s: Beginning of the Dinosaur Renaissance. New (or revived) topics of dinosaur research:

New discoveries from many parts of the world New techniques to find, uncover, prepare, and describe fossils

Remainder of the course represents the work of Ostrom’s colleagues and students

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Last modified: 14 July 2006