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'Dinosaur Man' celebrated at LRGS

Published Monday 9th of March 2015 11:35:05 AM

The eminent Lancastrian and 'Dinosaur Man' Sir Richard Owen was celebrated at the unveiling of a blue plaque at Lancaster Royal Grammar School recently.

Owen, who attended LRGS from 1809 to 1819, is famous for coining the word 'dinosaur' (Greek for 'terrible lizard') and establishing the Natural History Museum in 1881. The current LRGS Headmaster Dr Chris Pyle said: 'There isn't a huge amount in the school archives about Owen's time here. But what we do have is a quote, which it is claimed was from one of his schoolmasters, referring to him as 'impudent'. It seems he was extremely stubborn, knew exactly what he wanted, was incredibly clever, but not in any way a conformist'.

The plaque was unveiled by Dr David Williams, a fossil and algae researcher at the Natural History Museum. Speaking after the event, Dr Williams gave an entertaining account of Owen's long life, listing his many achievements as an 'extra-ordinary biologist, palaeontologist, administrator, grand Victorian and first superintendent of the Natural History Museum in London', as well recounting Owen's clash with Charles Darwin over evolution.

He concluded, though, that 'Over many years and study of many specimens, Owen refined the science of comparative anatomy, enabling all those scientists who followed him to make meaningful comparisons between organisms, to demonstrate how they are indeed all related; Owen actually, even if a little inadvertently, paved the way for a general understanding of evolution. If anything, Owen's shoulders were those upon which Darwin stood, for no other bearer was possible'.

Among the attendees at the ceremony were Year 7 LRGS pupils who had won a Design a Fossil competition, as part of the commemoration of Sir Richard Owen. They were joined by the Rt Hon Eric Ollerenshaw MP, academics from Lancaster University's Medical School, and a range of representatives from local historical, archaeological and medical societies.

The plaque was installed by the Society of Biology, and is one of ten blue plaques around the UK celebrating the eminent but sometimes unsung heroes of biology.

You can read more about Owen on the BBC news website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-31623397.
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