GEOL 104 Dinosaurs: A Natural History
Fall Semester 2006
Walking with Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park: Dinosaurs in Pop Culture
Dinosaurs as Metaphor:
- Conception of the metaphorical "dinosaur" is still very much a Victorian/early 20th
Century version of Dinosauria, not reflecting the changing scientific understanding:
- Huge, monstrous
- Primeval, powerful
- Mighty body but tiny brain
A long history of dinosaurs in the popular eye.
Dinosaurians in the Victorian Era:
- Pre-Owen "dinosaurs" thought of as unrelated giant lizards
- Owen's original 1841 presentation was to a general audience
- Dinosauria really became well-known via the Crystal Palace exhibits
- Immediately showed up in political cartoons, books, etc.
- Replaced other creatures (dodos, mammoths, ichthyosaurs) in this context
- Became the main attractions in museums, via Marsh, Cope, etc.
During 20th Century, dinosaurs got the reputation of being "kids stuff" and not "real
science". Explosion in dinosaur kid's books, toys, etc.
Many popular (and generally youth-oriented) versions of dinosaurs in books (Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Edgar Rice Burroughs Earth's Core and Land that Time
Forgot), comic strips, movies (Gertie the Dinosaur, The Lost World, King
Kong) during the first three decades of the 20th Century. Another burst of dinosaur
popularity (replaying the earlier one) in the 1950s, via American and Japanese monster
The Dinosaur Renaissance:
- Name comes from an article in Scientific American from 1975 by Robert T. Bakker
- Represents the introduction of new scientific interpretations of dinosaurs to the public
- Caught on in the mid-1970s, and has proceded unabated:
- Many popular science books, with many geared for adults as well as kids
- Lots and lots of news articles
- Changed the illustrated versions of dinosaurs in realistic and in cartoon form
- Led to popular movies such as the Jurassic Park series
- Lots of dinosaur documentaries for TV
- The Dinosaur Renaissance also led a lot of students to pursue careers in paleontology:
more people working in vertebrate paleontology in general, and dinosaur paleontology in
particular, than ever before
Why are dinosaurs so popular?
- Weird and wonderful
- Fearsome, but harmless, since "they are extinct" (okay, this idea fails under scientific
- A way to introduce natural sciences in an entertaining way
(The last reason, of course, is the justification for this course!)
A Reminder: Don't forget that the final exam is on Dec. 20,
, from 8:00-10:00 in PLS 1140!
To Previous Lecture.
Last modified: 14 July 2006