Adrian Desmond

Published On


Page Range

pp. 277–288


  • English

Print Length

12 pages

13. A Purpose-built Museum


  • Adrian Desmond (author)
Saull’s wine profits had sent him on a spending spree. His mentor, Sir Richard Phillips, visiting the museum in 1835, reckoned it held “ten thousand” fossils. So many that it was bursting, and Saull now rebuilt the museum as a brick-based, two-story exhibition. By the later thirties the press rated it the largest private geological collection in London, possibly the country. Giant Iguanodon saurians, collected in the Isle of Wight, were the new attraction. It was here that the Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons, the grave Anglican Richard Owen, found an Iguanodon sacrum (fused pelvic vertebrae) that would allow him to separate off these reptiles as ‘dinosaurs’. The ideological importance of the newly-reshaped dinosaurs for the anti-evolutionist Owen is discussed. The Gideon Mantell—Richard Owen tussle over Saull’s sacrum further brought the museum into public view.


Adrian Desmond


Adrian Desmond was educated at University College London and Harvard University, where he was Stephen Jay Gould's first history of science PhD student. He has two MSc's, one in history of science, another in vertebrate palaeontology, and a PhD for his work on radical Victorian evolutionists. For twenty years he was an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London. He is the multi-award-winning author of nine books, which include: The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London, Darwin, Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple, Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest, Darwin’s Sacred Cause (with James Moore)