Home / History / Waterhouse Hawkins explains himself


Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (FGS, FLS) discussed his famous statues in an evening lecture at the Royal Society of Arts on Wednesday May 17, 1854. The Crystal Palace and Park in Sydenham was on the verge of opening (details), and publicity for that event was in full flow.

But there’s more than publicity in Waterhouse Hawkins’ lecture. The statues offered “visual education,” he said. In essence, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Children will remember what they see far longer than anything they might read. Education needed to make more use of visual materials, he said, and educators needed to work harder to create visually useful materials for the classroom. 

Alongside his lecture that evening, Waterhouse Hawkins also put on display models and drawings of his sculptures as well as sixty photographs by Philip H. De la Motte (view some of these photographs via English Heritage or in book form via Crystal Palace Foundation).

Visual aid for Waterhouse Hawkins 1854 lecture

Waterhouse Hawkins widely used this illustration for his discussions of the statues in Crystal Palace Park.


The Morning Post (London) called his talk “highly interesting and very able” (19 May). The Standard (London) reported the lecture, too (19 May). On the same day, the society published Waterhouse Hawkins’ lecture in full:

Waterhouse Hawkins, Benjamin. 1854. On Visual Education As Applied to Geology, Illustrated By Diagrams and Models of the Geological Restorations at the Crystal Palace. Journal of the Society of Arts (78): 443-449 (view original below or via Google Books).

The text of Waterhouse Hawkins’ lecture has been reprinted several times. What’s exciting about reading the original via Google Books is a glimpse at the post-lecture discussion. It’s clear his audience was amazed by the quality of his work. They also took up his point about education, suggesting the models Waterhouse Hawkins had made might be copied and distributed to schools across the country.

Share this page
Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs logo

Donate via PayPal