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The term “dinosaurs” refers to the sum total of the approximately thirty paleontological statues, five geological displays, and related landscaping in the vicinity of the tidal lake in Crystal Palace Park. This section of the park was constructed 1853-1855 and has remained largely in the places we find them today. The statues are the first ever attempt to interpret paleontological discoveries as full-scale full-bodied reconstructions. The sculptor, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, was a natural history illustrator and sculptor of international reputation. His work combined the pursuit of technical accuracy and animate expression. His sculptures were set in a landscape designed by Joseph Paxton that also included hillside illustrations of economic geology created by Professor David Anstead.

Some of the dinosaurs are described in Richard Owen (1854) Geology and Inhabitants of the Ancient World  (London: Euston Grove Press), 48 pages. 2013 facsimile edition (link).

You can do worse than read the Wikipedia article on the dinosaurs.

The big picture

This June 2013 lecture by Professor Joe Cain on Crystal Palace Dinosaurs discusses how the dinosaurs fit into the larger setting of the park and the history of science. It also interprets the statues as a visitor would have done in 1the 1850s. This is part of UCL’s “Lunch Hour Lectures on tour,” series at The Museum of London. Joe Cain is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies. The original title was “Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park”.


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