Richard Owen (1804-1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist best remembered for coining the word Dinosauria (meaning terrible reptile or fearfully great reptile). He was Hunternian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons of London where he acquired excellent knowledge of comparative anatomy, which enabled him to enrich all departments of the science and especially facilitated his researches on the remains of extinct animals. His career was tainted by accusations that he failed to give credit to the work of others. Owen synthesized French anatomical work, especially from Cuvier and Geoffroy, with German transcendental anatomy. He gave us many of the terms still used today in anatomy and evolutionary biology, including "homology". Owen was also a taxonomist, naming and describing a vast number of living and fossil vertebrates. One of his positions was that of prosector for the London Zoo, which meant that he had to dissect and preserve any zoo animals that died in captivity. This gave him vast experience with the anatomy of exotic animals. He rose to fame as "the British Cuvier". He was an outspoken opponent of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. He agreed with Darwin that evolution occurred, but thought it was more complex than outlined in Darwin's Origin. He was the driving force behind the establishment, in 1881, of the British Museum in London. He died in 1892 at the age of 88. 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.
March 7th, 2013
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