Adrian Desmond

Published On


Page Range

pp. 469–488


  • English

Print Length

20 pages

24. Museum and Pantheon for the Masses

  • Adrian Desmond (author)
The idea that Saull’s was a radical museum had to do with more than an Owenite evolutionary interpretation of its 20,000 exhibits. The contents could themselves betray the radicalism. Here we discuss the fossils, although our knowledge of them is skewed by the press’s concern with size and beauty. Hence we know more about his Iguanodon dinosaurs than fossil fish. A comparison with the distiller James Scott Bowerbank’s Highbury Grove museum also illustrates different proprietorial and professional interests, which resulted in different display arrangements. Finally there is a Chartist’s-eye-view: we trace the Northern Star reporter’s steps as he enters the emporium. He only has eyes for the skeleton of the old insurrectionary and “Equality” poet George Petrie, hanging, not on a scaffold, but in Saull’s closet. Saull’s museum was a radical pantheon; it was radical stuff, and the stuff of radicals. The freethought financier Julian Hibbert’s head was also on display. The ideological value of these relics, and how they arrived here, is considered.


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)