Richard Owen: Biology without Darwin by Nicolaas A. Rupke

By Nicolaas A. Rupke

In the mid-1850s, no scientist within the British Empire used to be extra obvious than Richard Owen. pointed out within the related breath as Isaac Newton and championed as Britain’s solution to France’s Georges Cuvier and Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt, Owen was once, because the Times declared in 1856, the main “distinguished guy of technological know-how within the country.” yet, a century and a part later, Owen continues to be principally obscured by way of the shadow of the main recognized Victorian naturalist of all, Charles Darwin. Publicly marginalized by means of his contemporaries for his critique of traditional choice, Owen suffered own assaults that undermined his credibility lengthy after his identify light from history.


With this leading edge biography, Nicolaas Rupke resuscitates Owen’s acceptance. Arguing that Owen may still not be judged by means of the evolution dispute that figured in  just a minor a part of his paintings, Rupke stresses context, emphasizing the significance of locations and practices within the creation and reception of medical wisdom. Dovetailing with the new resurgence of curiosity in Owen’s existence and paintings, Rupke’s publication brings the forgotten naturalist again into the canon of the heritage of technology and demonstrates how a lot biology existed with, and with no, Darwin

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1852) Vol. 2, Absorbent, Circulating, Respiratory and Urinary Systems Vol. 3 (1), Nervous System and Organs of Sense Vol. 3 (2), Connective and Tegumentary Systems and Peculiarities Vol. 4, Organs of Generation Vol. , 1850) 1853 Descriptive Catalogue of the Osteological Series Contained in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, vol. 1, Pisces, Reptilia, Aves, Marsupialia; vol. 2, Mammalia Placentalia 1854 Descriptive Catalogue of the Fossil Organic Remains of Reptilia and Pisces (assisted by J.

T. Quekett for Reptilia) 1856 Descriptive Catalogue of the Fossil Organic Remains of Invertebrata (cephalopods by Owen; bulk by John Morris) The “Bibliography of Richard Owen” (Rev. Owen, Life, vol. 2, 333–34) attributes to Owen all six parts of the Catalogue of the Hunterian Collection in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, which was prepared under William Clift and appeared in 1830–31. Only one part, however, was produced by Owen; Clift was responsible for the parts on the pathological series, and his son, William Home Clift, for those on the osteological collection and the “monsters and malformed parts” (Negus, Hunterian Collection, 43).

39 Owen also wanted to exhibit all known species of the largest land mammals, the elephants, arguing that in a national museum a naturalist should be able to study both generic and species differences. ”40 Because England was the main colonial power in the tropics, it had a special obligation to include in its national museum the large tropical mammals. Equally, the museum should contain the huge, paleontological monsters of the past: mastodon, megatherium, dinornis, and many others. Owen asked also for laboratory space, a library, and a lecture theater, and he estimated that, in toto, a single-storey building covering ten acres was needed or a two-storey building of five acres.

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