Dinosaur and other restorations at Sydenham Park, by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, from James Reynolds, Pictorial and Descriptive Atlas of Geology, ca. 1854.

45. Reynolds, James (fl. 1845-1864).
Pictorial and Descriptive Atlas of Geology.
London: Published by James Reynolds, ca. 1854.

By 1834, very incomplete fossil remains had been discovered of three large reptiles; they had been named Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus.  In 1842, Richard Owen suggested that, although these three differed in certain details, they had a unifying structure that merited including them in one single group.  He called that group Dinosauria (See our exhibition catalog, Paper Dinosaurs, 1824-1969 (1996), for a more detailed look at the discovery of the first dinosaurs).  Dinosaurs remained generally unknown to the public, because, unlike the mastodon or Megatherium, there was no complete skeleton that could be displayed.

In 1853, the great Crystal Palace, an iron-and-glass structure that had been erected in London in 1851 for the Great Exhibition, was being re-located to Sydenham Park south of London.  Since there were now ample grounds surrounding the Palace, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to construct life-size reconstructions of a variety of extinct animals, including the dinosaurs. He was assisted in their design by Owen, and the park was opened in 1854 to great acclaim.  This tableau drawn by Hawkins shows four dinosaurs at the left (there were two Iguanodons), a number of marine reptiles, and a pterodactyl, as well as a Megatherium in the distant far right.

Thus, by 1855, it was generally recognized, even by the public, that life on earth had changed over time, and that the species we see now had not always existed.  The origin of living species, however, was an unsettled question.

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