'Show Me the Bone; or, How the Victorians Made Their Dinosaurs'

Series Name Professorial Inaugural Lecture
Speaker Professor Gowan Dawson, School of English and Victorian Studies
Type Lectures & Talks
Starts at Feb 24, 2015 05:30 PM
Ends at Feb 24, 2015 06:30 PM
Venue Ken Edwards Building Lecture Theatre 1
Open To Public
Ticket Price Free
For Bookings Contact Anyone wishing to attend a lecture, whether student, staff or public, should contact inaugural@le.ac.uk.

Professor Gowan Dawson from the School of English and Victorian Studies will give his professorial inaugural lecture entitled 'Show Me the Bone; or, How the Victorians Made Their Dinosaurs' on 24 February 2015 in Ken Edwards Building Lecture Theatre 1.

In the nineteenth century paleontologists claimed that, from just a single bone, they could identify and sometimes even reconstruct previously unknown prehistoric creatures.  Their alleged boast was “show me the bone, and I will describe the animal”.  This lecture explores how, in Victorian Britain, paleontologists such as Richard Owen fashioned themselves as scientific wizards who could resurrect the extinct denizens of the ancient past from merely a glance at a fragmentary bone.  In particular, it will focus on the life-sized brick-and-mortar models of dinosaurs built in the 1850s at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, South London.   The huge three-dimensional prehistoric monsters that lurked in the gardens at Sydenham show how nineteenth-century culture, from stage-managed news reports and fashionable serial novels to new forms of visual education and entertainment, helped shape the science of paleontology and played a crucial role in how the Victorians made their dinosaurs.


Professor Dawson said: "I was born and grew up in south London.  I did a BA in English Literature and English History at the University of East Anglia, followed by an MA Victorian Literature at the University of Nottingham.  I then did a PhD on ‘Walter Pater, Aestheticism and Victorian Science’ at the University of Sheffield, supervised by Professor Sally Shuttleworth.  Straight after completing the PhD I began a Leverhulme Research Fellowship on the Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical (‘SciPer’) Project at the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds.  In 2002 I came to the University of Leicester as Lecturer in Victorian Literature, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2007, and Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture in 2014.  In 2012–13 I was a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow.  I am the co-investigator, with Sally Shuttleworth and Christ Lintott, of the ‘Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’ project, which in 2013 was awarded a Large Grant by the AHRC in the Science in Culture theme.  My work on the ‘ConSciCom’ project involves leading a collaboration between Leicester and the Natural History Museum in London.  My publications include Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); as co-author Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); as co-editor Victorian Scientific Naturalism: Community, Identity, Continuity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), with Bernard Lightman; The Correspondence of John Tyndall, vol. 1: 1840–3 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2014), with Geoffrey Cantor; and Victorian Science and Literature, 8 vols. (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011–12), with Bernard Lightman.  My new book Show Me the Bone: Reconstructing Prehistoric Monsters in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America is forthcoming with University of Chicago Press."

All inaugural lectures are open to the public and are free. Anyone wishing to attend a lecture, whether student, staff or public, should contact inaugural@le.ac.uk.

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