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Artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins combined scientific study, engineering ingenuity and imagination to design and build the models at Crystal Palace.
While others had reconstructed the skeletons of extinct animals, Hawkins was the first person to produce life-size sculptures showing how they might have looked when alive.
Hawkins believed striking, lifelike models would spark greater public interest in geology than the fragments of 'dry bones or oddly-shaped stones' displayed in museums of the time.

BENJAMIN WATERHOUSE HAWKINS (1807-1894)

fig. 1
Benjamin Waterhouse
Hawkins' studio at Crystal Palace.
{Illustrated London News / Mary Evans)

fig. 2
Hawkins's hand-drawn invitation to a New Year's Eve dinner held in the mould of the Iguanodon.
(Mary Evans / Natural History Museum.
London}

THE DESIGNERS


fig. 3
Richard Owen with the skeleton of a Moa, an extinct flightless bird whose existence he deduced from a single bone.
(The Trustees of the
Natural History Museum, London}

fig. 4
Irish Elk skeleton from Owen's 1846 book A History of British Fossil Mammals, and Birds.
(Biodiversity Heritage Library)

RICHARD OWEN (1804-1892)

Zoologist and anatomist Richard Owen acted as scientific advisor to the sculptor of the Crystal Palace animal models.
One of the best-known British scientists of the time, Owen had earlier coined the term 'dinosaur' to scientifically classify three extinct giant reptiles Hylaeosaurus, Iguanodon and Megalosaurus - which are all represented on this site.
He also developed much of the basic science that informed the models.
Publicity of the time attributed the design of the sculptures to Owen, but it is likely he only commented once the first prototypes had been produced.

Close-up of the inscription Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3rd Nov 2021
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Close-up of the inscription Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3rd Nov 2021
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Close-up of the inscription Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3rd Nov 2021
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Long shot of the bench Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3rd Nov 2021
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View from the bench Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3rd Nov 2021
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Thicket Road London United Kingdom
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