The book behind Gustav Tornier

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A bit of a panic yesterday. We’re in the middle of moving house at the moment, from a rather large apartment without a garden to a large garden with a smaller house. Unfortunately, that calls for a significant culling of our book collection or, if you will, a fortunate separation of the chaff from the corn. I had brought a few boxes of books to a nearby second-hand bookseller’s when I noticed I missed one particular volume – and one of those spine-freezing sensations set in. Continue reading “The book behind Gustav Tornier” »

Le monstre de l’ère secondaire

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Why are all those people up there?

The Paris Diplodocus in 1908, which hasn’t changed much since those days. The (second-floor) gallery with the cast is deserted, but look at the multitudes on the third floor. This leads me to suspect that it must be taken shortly after the mounting of the cast had been finished, perhaps even on the eve of the unveiling (June 15, 1908) by the French President, Edmond Fallières.

(From the Lost Spendor Tumblr.)

Wildfahrt’s snorkeling Iguanodons

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… but otherwise surprisingly modern-looking.

The predominant image of dinosaurs as water-going creatures did not limit itself to sauropods; hadrosaurs were also considered to be pond dwellers for a long time. However, the idea of Iguanodon as an aquatic animal was not quite so common. This German work from the late 1940s is testimony to the fact that German paleontology had some pretty idiosyncratic ideas of its own.1)Martin Wildfahrt, Die Lebensweise der Dinosaurier (Stuttgart: Schweizerbart, 1949).

(Illustration taken from P. Bultynck, Bernissart en de Iguanodons (Brussels: Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, 1987), p. 74.)

References   [ + ]

1. Martin Wildfahrt, Die Lebensweise der Dinosaurier (Stuttgart: Schweizerbart, 1949).

About Hydrarchos

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Hydrarchos harlani, contemporary etching (ca. 1845)

This isn’t so much a blog as a place for me to reflect on the history of paleontology. Don’t expect academic, article-sized contributions here. Instead, it’s a place to comment about publications in paleontology, the history of science and things related to either that seem relevant to me.

Why Hydrarchos?

Hydrarchos harlani was a creative amalgam consisting of several skeletal parts originally belonging to the fossil whale Basilosaurus (Zeuglodon). ‘Dr.’ Albert Karl Koch, a German who had emigrated to the United States, handily played into the then current interest in sea snakes, and toured the United States, and later Europe, with his invention in the 1840s. Eventually, the first Hydrarchos was bought by the Prussian royal zoological cabinet in 1848.

We’ll get back to the details of the Hydrarchos story at length, but I chose it as the name for this site because it symbolizes the crossroads of science, popular culture, and history.