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Richard Owen
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Scientist
    (July 20, 1804-December 18, 1892)
    Born in Lancaster, England, United Kingdom
    Biologist and pioneering paleontologist
    Wrote ‘History of British Fossil Reptiles’ (four volumes, 1849-84), ‘Paleontology’ (1860) and ‘Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Vertebrates’ (three volumes, 1866-68)
    Coined the word ‘dinosaur’ (1842)
    His wife once returned home to find a dead rhino from the London Zoo occupying the front hall.
    He wrote an anonymous review of ‘The Origin of Species’ that attacked Darwin while praising himself.
    Darwin called him, ‘spiteful, extremely malignant’ and added, ‘The Londoners say he is mad with envy because my book is so talked about.’
    His reconstruction of the dinosaur Iguanodon placed what turned out to be its thumb on its nose as a horn.
    He got expelled from the Zoological Society and Royal Society for claiming other scientists’ discoveries as his own.
    He outlived his wife and only child.
    He tutored Queen Victoria’s children in science.
    He concluded that a six-inch long bone fragment sent from New Zealand had come from an extinct flightless bird that was larger than an ostrich (1839); four years later, he was proven right with the discovery of a complete skeleton of a giant moa.
    He triggered the first dinosaur craze when he had two dozen life-size models built at the Crystal Palace during the 1850s.
    He hosted a banquet for 21 fellow scientists inside a hollow concrete Iguanodon on New Years Eve (1853).
    He convinced the British Museum to move its often-neglected scientific collections to a new Natural History Museum that would be open to the public (1881).
    Bill Bryson wrote, ‘By making the Natural History Museum an institution for everyone, Owen transformed our expectations of what museums are for.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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