Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen

1804 (Lancaster, England) – 1892 (London)

Owen’s exceptional talents and achievements sit contrary to his (not undeserved) reputation as vain, vindictive and a plagiariser. He met Cuvier and attended his debates with Geoffroy, was introduced by Lyell to Darwin and analysed his haul of fossils, and examined Buckland’s, Mantell’s and Agassiz’s blood together at table (he later grew to hate Darwin’s achievement, antagonised Lyell, sabotaged Mantell’s career, and encouraged Buckland’s wife to commit him to an asylum). He knew Carlyle for 40 years, advised Livingston, and befriended Oken, Turner, Eliot, Tennyson and Dickens. Anning took him fossil-hunting; Faraday sent him a three-legged frog.