Courtesy Mark RyanRichard Owen was born this day in 1804 in Lancaster, England. Owen was one of the great comparative anatomists and paleontologists of the 19th Century. He's best remembered for coining the word dinosaur ("fearfully great lizard") in 1841 to describe a group of large reptilian fossils that had come to light just a few decades earlier. He also consulted with artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins to create the first (although inaccurate) representations of dinosaurs for the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1853-54. Owen was a major force in the establishment of the British Museum of Natural History. He died on December 18th in 1882. You can read more about him here.
Courtesy Mark RyanToday marks the birthday of Arthur Lakes (1844-1917), a geologist, artist, and teacher who discovered some of the first dinosaur remains in the western United States. During the spring of 1877, Lakes was out measuring rock formations above Morrison, Colorado when he and companion John Beckwith stumbled upon the huge fossilized bones of dinosaurs. When Lakes sent samples to Yale paleontologist Othniel Marsh, it started the great western bone rush that would soon escalate into the infamous Bone Wars between Marsh and his arch-rival Edward Drinker Cope. While in Marsh's employ, Lakes created several iconic watercolor paintings of the diggings that occurred in Morrison, and later at Como Bluff in Wyoming. You can read more about Lakes in a post I made last year on his birthday.
Courtesy Public domainSir Richard Owen, Victorian-era anatomist and paleontologist best remembered for first coining the term "Dinosauria" in 1842. The word, which translates to "terrible lizard" (or the punchier, I think, "fearfully-great lizard") placed the prehistoric reptiles into their own taxon.
Courtesy Mark RyanOwen later headed the natural history collections at the British Museum, and, in the early 1850s, along with sculpture Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, created the first public (and now outmoded) models of dinosaurs. The life-size sculptures that can still be seen today at Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham, London. Owen died December 18, 1892.
Courtesy Public domain via WikimediaEdward Drinker Cope was a paleontologist and naturalist born in 1840 who made up one side of the famous Bone Wars during the early days of American paleontology. Yale paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh was his arch rival. Originally the two were friends but their competition to find and name the most prehistoric creatures led to a bitter battle personally, and in the press. Nonetheless, Cope's output was prolific having written some 1400 scientific papers. He died on this day in 1897 at his home in Philadelphia.
Courtesy Arthur Lake Library, Colorado School of MinesArthur Lakes, pioneer dinosaur hunter, and chronicler of early American paleontology, was born this day in 1844 in Martock Summerset, England. Educated at Queens College in Oxford, Lakes eventually immigrated to the United States (via Canada) where he worked as a geologist, teacher, artist, and itinerant Episcopalian minister in the area around Golden, Colorado.
Courtesy Mark Ryan collectionOn March 27, 1877, while out measuring rock units in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver, Lakes and a companion, Captain Henry Beckwith, discovered large exposures of dinosaur remains. Hoping to stir up some interest, money, and perhaps some employment, Lakes sent some of the fossil bones eastward to both Othniel Marsh, and Edward Cope, unintentionally firing up the feud between the two pioneer paleontologists that would soon escalate into the famous Bone Wars of the latter 19th century. Marsh, at Yale’s Peabody Museum, eventually hired Lakes as a field worker, and used the fossils he found to describe a number of new dinosaurs species taken from several productive quarries around the Morrison, Colorado area. These new discoveries all came from the Late Jurassic-aged rocks (named the Morrison formation after the nearby town) and included the first discoveries of the now well known Stegosaurus, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus).
When the Colorado quarries were exhausted, Marsh sent Lakes north to Como Bluff in Wyoming Territory. Dinosaur bones had been found there not long after the Colorado discoveries. Arthur Lakes spent the 1879-80 season digging out tons of bones from of the Jurassic-aged sediments around Como Bluff, along with William Reed, a railroad worker who had brought the area’s rich fossil cache to Marsh’s attention. It must have been a strange pairing since the Oxford-trained Lakes was the polar opposite of the self-taught frontiersman Reed.
Como was one of the prime battlegrounds in the Fossil Feud between Marsh and Cope. The strata there was far richer than that at Morrison, and produced fossils that eventually filled the display halls at many of the world’s great natural history museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D. C., the Peabody Museum at Yale, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Courtesy Mark RyanLakes kept journals and wrote many letters of his activities at both Morrison and Como Bluff describing his explorations and the natural history of both areas (the journals were published in a book in 1997 by the Smithsonian Institute). These, along with his initial discoveries around Morrison, would probably have been enough to keep his name in the annals of paleontology, but his most important contributions to the science were the many sketches and watercolors he made at both locations. These depictions not only preserve a wonderful pictorial record of seminal events in the history of early American paleontology, but have also aided modern researchers in locating historical quarry sites at both locations. Many of Lakes’ original paintings are reposited at the Peabody Museum at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.
Lakes’ original dinosaur quarry (#1) is preserved today as a historic landmark on the west side of Dinosaur Ridge along Alameda Parkway, overlooking the town of Morrison and the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Some bones, still intact in blocks of hard sandstone, can be seen there, as well as lateral views of some later discovered dinosaur footprints.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe location of Quarry 10, where the remains of several sauropod species were discovered, was long lost until recently. The quarry was re-discovered and re-opened in 2002 by researchers from the nearby Morrison Natural History Museum. Artifacts of Arthur Lakes’ original diggings, such as nails and campfire charcoal have been recovered from the site. The nails would have come from support beams built to hold up the massive sandstone ledge that capped the softer clay layer from where many of the fossil bones were extracted. Lakes’ journal reported a couple collapses at this quarry in his journal. Luckily no one was working the quarry at the time, otherwise they would no doubt have been crushed to death by several tons of sandstone.
Courtesy Mark RyanRe-examination of Lakes' quarries has revealed some new secrets, such as the first footprints from a baby Stegosaurus. Yale has also loaned some of Lakes' original finds back to the museum in Morrison, including a toe bone from a baby Apatosaurus, and the articulated leg bones from the Apatosaurus ajax discovered at Quarry 10 in 1877.
Lakes eventually left the fossil trade, and turned his attention to the geology of Colorado, working for the US Geological Survey, and teaching courses in earth science and mining at what is today the Colorado School of Mines. The library at the school is named in his honor. Lakes continued to write, producing books and several articles about mining in Colorado. He and his sons also consulted for mining companies after he retired from teaching, and later moved to British Columbia to live out his days near his family. He died there in 1917.
If you'd like to learn more about Lakes and his life, there's a new book titled The Legacy of Arthur Lakes by Beth Simmons and Katherine Honda, recently published by The Friends of Dinosaur Ridge.