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6 October 1994
Richard OwenVictorian Naturalist 
by Nicolaas Rupke.
Yale, 462 pp., £35, February 1994, 0 300 05820 9
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... At the famous dinner held in the Crystal Palace in 1853, with 22 gentlemen seated inside a reconstructed iguanodon, the head of both the table and the beast was held – as of right – by RichardOwen, universally acknowledged as Britain’s premier anatomist, ‘the English Cuvier’, and arguably the foremost British ‘man of science’ of his generation. It is true that he was not, even then ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke

21 July 1983
Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... granted, reinforced as they so often are with a wealth of anecdote. ‘Theology and Parsondom’ were, for T.H. Huxley, ‘the natural and irreconcilable enemies of science’. His professional rival RichardOwen, by contrast, considered those blind to the beauty of design in nature to be suffering from ‘some, perhaps, congenital, defect of mind’. But the trouble with reduction to polar opposites is ...
4 December 1986
Crisis in the Kremlin: Soviet Succession and the Rise of Gorbachev 
by Richard Owen.
Gollancz, 253 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 575 03635 4
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The Waking Giant: The Soviet Union Under Gorbachev 
by Martin Walker.
Joseph, 282 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2719 6
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The Artful Albanian: The Memoirs of Enver Hoxha 
edited by Jon Halliday.
Chatto, 394 pp., £5.95, May 1986, 0 7011 2970 0
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... to have chosen to lead from the radical wing of the Party. The two latest studies of Gorbachev’s impact on the Soviet Union make valuable contributions to assessing the prospects for change. RichardOwen was the Times correspondent in Moscow from 1982 to 1985, while Martin Walker has been the Guardian’s correspondent since 1984. Their approaches provide an interesting contrast. Owen’s, as ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Successive John Murrays

8 November 2018
... Alexander Pope was ‘an early 18th-century poet’ cannot be expected to know who ‘dear old Panizzi’ is in the same letter. His is one of many un-glossed names, some of them important. The ‘Owen’ referred to by Joseph Hooker in a letter to Murray III about Samuel Wilberforce’s hostile review of Origin of Species is RichardOwen, the palaeontologist who coined the word ‘dinosaur’, and ...
6 July 1989
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. IV: 1847-1850 
edited by Frederic Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 744 pp., £32.50, February 1989, 0 521 25590 2
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Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction 
by George Levine.
Harvard, 336 pp., £21.95, November 1988, 0 674 19285 0
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... Austen, Dickens and Trollope in the light of the Darwinian theory and method. The pursuit of scientific knowledge was everything to Darwin. All his correspondents were scientists – Lyell, Chambers, Owen, Hooker and so on – and all his talk was of science. Even in his loving letters to his wife Emma (‘my dear Mammy’), science is always on his mind. ‘What a very good girl you are to write to ...

Before Darwin

Harriet Ritvo

24 May 1990
The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine and Reform in Radical London 
by Adrian Desmond.
Chicago, 503 pp., £27.95, March 1990, 0 226 14346 5
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... in the 1830s. The ultimate failure of transmutation – that is, the loss, in the 1840s, of much of its former audience – he attributes not to any persuasive disproof by conservative opponents like RichardOwen, then of the Royal College of Surgeons, but to the diffusion of a spirit of liberal compromise within medicine and science which led to the isolation and ultimate abandonment of a range of ...

Street-Wise

Richard​ Altick

29 October 1987
George Scharf’s London: Sketches and Watercolours of a Changing City, 1820-50 
by Peter Jackson.
Murray, 154 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 7195 4379 7
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... of a copy of the giraffe print to Queen Adelaide, who then ordered three copies of the whole set. But from then on, he was increasingly beset by money troubles. When, twenty years later, Professor RichardOwen promised him a guinea a week to sketch anything he liked in the British Museum, it was a transparent gesture of charity. Scharf recorded the ongoing life of London as a labour of love. He never ...

When Pigs Ruled the Earth

James Secord: A prehistoric apocalypse

1 April 2004
When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time 
by Michael Benton.
Thames and Hudson, 336 pp., £16.95, March 2003, 9780500051160
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... mouse-sized. Many of the specimens were in poor condition, and some had been smashed by evangelical Boers, who feared that they might be used to prove the antiquity of the world. The naturalist RichardOwen, who worked in London at the centre of an imperial network, identified them as the remains of mammal-like reptiles that he called dicynodonts (from the two canine teeth that these animals used ...

The Name of the Beast

Armand Marie Leroi

11 December 1997
Buffon 
by Jacques Roger.
Cornell, 492 pp., £39.50, August 1997, 0 8014 2918 8
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The Platypus and the Mermaid and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination 
by Harriet Ritvo.
Harvard, 274 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 0 674 67357 3
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... in the course of the 19th century, the focus of disputes about mammalian classification. Darwin thought they might well be viewed as links between mammals, birds and reptiles. His bête noire, RichardOwen, held fast to Platonisin, however, and denied that they were intermediate to anything – he placed the platypus with the edentates (armadillos, again). Owen even denied that Ornithorychus laid ...

The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond

15 October 1987
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... which this might be done. He describes how Darwin ‘read’ the fossil bones of the camel-like Macrauchenia – brought back from Patagonia – quite differently from the young Coleridgean anatomist RichardOwen. This divergent ‘reading’ reflected not only his distinct style of science – he was a field naturalist and Owen a museum anatomist – but also his evolutionary understanding (on which he ...

Austward Ho

Patrick Parrinder

18 May 1989
Moon Palace 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 307 pp., £11.99, April 1989, 0 571 15404 2
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Prisoner’s Dilemma 
by Richard​ Powers.
Weidenfeld, 348 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 297 79482 5
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A Prayer for Owen​ Meany 
by John Irving.
Bloomsbury, 543 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 7475 0334 6
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... Driving across America, one of the characters in Richard Powers’s new novel remarks that the whole country has become a gigantic theme park. The same impression might have been gained from reading American novels, or from going to the movies. From ...

Species-Mongers

Steven Shapin: Joseph Hooker and the Dead Foreign Weeds

20 November 2008
Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science 
by Jim Endersby.
Chicago, 429 pp., £18, May 2008, 978 0 226 20791 9
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... of his country’s reward, because he has spent his life getting as far as quadratics; but every fool who can make a bad species and worse genera is a “Naturalist”.’ And another biologist, RichardOwen, made light of herbarium work as ‘the attaching of barbarous binomials to dried foreign weeds’. Partly because of its association with more general economic and cultural concerns, partly ...

A Duck Folded in Half

Armand Marie Leroi

19 June 1997
Before the Backbone: Views on the Origins of the Vertebrates 
by Henry Gee.
Chapman and Hall, 346 pp., £35, August 1996, 0 412 48300 9
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... what would be called Transcendental Anatomy. The Darwinian explanation for homologies – common ancestors – did not displace Transcendental Anatomy easily. At the British Museum (Natural History), RichardOwen promulgated a brilliant programme of comparative anatomy based on the idea that the similarities among animals derive from their correspondence to an ideal form – an Archetype built to a ...
3 September 1987
Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David OwenPersonally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... twist and the title might more appropriately have become ‘The War Between the Generals’. One of the principal problems of the warring generals was an inability to agree on strategy. At David Owen’s insistence, the Alliance’s election objectives were limited to achieving the balance of power. This had the apparent advantage of modest realism, but there were more substantial disadvantages ...

Mae West and the British Raj

Wendy Doniger: Dinosaur Icons

18 February 1999
The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon 
by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 321 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 226 53204 6
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... 1840-1900), modern ‘classic’ dinos (1900-60) and the Post-Modern ‘dinosaur renaissance’ (1960 to the present). The term ‘dinosaur’ (meaning ‘terrible lizard’), coined in the 1840s by RichardOwen, is misleading: in fact dinosaurs are neither reptiles nor lizards (nor, inevitably, terrible). Charles Knight, who painted them for the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the ...

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