Despite being one of the most famous naturalists of the nineteenth century, Richard Owen is an obscure figure today. This paper delves into how such an influential person to the beginnings of paleontology and biology could have been written out of history. Owen worked his way into the world of comparative anatomy by finding work at the Hunterian Museum. From there, Owen earned respect for his exciting lectures on fossil discoveries and for his research interpreting fossils and reconstructing extinct species. Owen utilized his renown to spread his theories on the creations of species, but mostly kept his evolutionary ideas to himself so as to not upset his creationist colleagues. Owen lost his influence when he challenged and attacked Charles Darwin over On the Origin of Species. Through a feud that lasted almost a decade, Owen and Darwin engaged in petty attacks against one another to smear each other's reputations. Darwin and his followers pushed Owen out of the naturalist community and wrote of Owen as a vengeful and deplorable man. While Owen did much to deserve that criticism, he leaves behind a nuanced legacy as an important and prolific scientist responsible for many discoveries who was also capable of acts of great treachery.
Richard Owen; Charles Darwin; comparative anatomy; paleontology; dinosaur; fossils; evolution
History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
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Richard Owen: A Forgotten Icon.
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