A History of Dinosaur Discoveries

Reading assignments


Information from Paul Olsen's website:

  1. 1660s - Hooke & Steno recognize fossils as remains of living things.
  2. 1676 - Robert Plot described a distal femur of a dinosaur real  as a thigh bone of an elephant brought in by the Romans.  Richard Brooks in 1763 reillustrated the bone which he labelled Scrotum humanum [as a descriptive appelation]. In 1768 Jean Babtiste Robinet described the specimen a real scrotum.
  3. Not a dinosaur, but a fossil with a history: Mosasaurus hoffmani from Belgium
  4. 1824 - William Buckland formally descibes Megalosaurus, the first known carnivorous dinosaur. Cuvier thought it might be 40 ft long.
  5. 1825 - Gideon Mantell names Iguanodon based on a tooth reportedly found by his wife Mary Ann Mantell.  Mantell reasoned that it might be a giant version of an Iguana. Cuvier initially identified the teeth as those of a rhinoceros.
  6. 1836 - Edward Hitchcock reported the discovery of tracks of what he believed were giant birds, from late Triassic deposits of the Connecticut Valley.  The tracks were first discovered by Pliny Moody  in 1802 or 1803.  One particular slab at the Moody home was referred to as the track of "Noah's Raven"
  7. 1842 - Sir Richard Owen put Iguanodon, Megalosaurus, and Hylaeosaurus in a group he named the Dinosauria , usually translated as "terrible lizards",  but perhaps more correctly as fearfully great lizards.  Owen noted that they had a mixture of reptilian and mammalian (or bird-like) features..
  8. 1853 - Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, an artist supervised by Owen, builds life-size statues of Iguanodon and  Megalosaurus for the exhibition at the Crystal Palace   At the inauguration of the new exhibit, a dinner was held inside the model Iguanodon.
  9. 1858 - Joseph Leidy describes a partial skeleton of a dinosaur that he names Hadrosaurus foulki.  "Leidy showed that Hadrosaurus was clearly similar to Iguanodon, but because it had such short arms it almost certainly had to be bipedal.   This had the immediate effect of revolutionizing the reconstructions of dinosaurs. Now dinosaurs would be reconstructed as active, fairly graceful animals." (Olsen)
  10. 1868 - Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, commissioned to make a display of dinosaur reconstructions in Central Park, New York City, restores Hadrosaurus as an upright, biped. Because Hawkins criticized the corrupt politician "Boss Tweed", Tweed's gang destroyed the models.
  11. 1882 -  Lois Dollo describes completely articulated Iguanodon skeletons discovered in a coal mine in Bernissart, Belgium. These demonstrated that the spike-like object that Mantell thought was a nasal horn was a thumb.
  12. 1860's to 1890's - Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897), and Othniel Charles Marsh (1831-1899) ended up in a vituperative feud over dinosaur discoveries in the western United States.
  13. 1905--The first Tyrannosaurus skeleton
  14. 1916-- The first T. rex Mount
  15. 1975 - Robert Bakker's publication, "Dinosaur Renaissance" [Scientific American 232 (1975):58-78], popularizes the idea of "warm-blooded" dinosaurs.
  16. 1979 - John Horner finds Maiasaura hatchlings and adults and dinosaur nesting grounds; he proposes parental care of offspring by dinosaurs [Horner, J. R. 1984. The nesting behavior of dinosaurs. Scientific American 250:1301-37].
  17. 1980 - Luis Alvarez et al. [Extraterrestrial cause for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. Science 208:1095-1108] propose an asteroidal impact at the end of Cretaceous to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs.

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Current Topics in Dinosaur Studies from the Museum of Paleontology

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