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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Men of the Day No. 57 "Old Bones" Sir Richard Owen (Image plate from Vanity Fair), 1873

an unknown artist

chromolithograph on paper (sheet: 35.5 cm x 23.0 cm)

Sir Richard Owen (1804–1892), naturalist, anatomist and palaeontologist, was born in Lancaster and apprenticed to surgeon-apothecaries there before completing his studies in medicine in Edinburgh and London. Admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons, in 1827 he was appointed to a curatorial position at the College’s Hunterian Museum and through his work there became increasingly involved in comparative anatomy. In 1832, he published his findings on the museum’s collection of platypus specimens, proving the animal’s classification as a mammal and marking the start of a lifetime’s work on the physiology and palaeontology of Australian marsupials and monotremes and their extinct antecedents. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1834 and appointed a professor of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1836. From the mid-1840s, he became increasingly focussed on palaeontology, making an extensive study of fossils from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, coining the term Dinosauria and defining it as a category. In time, Owen’s theories came under attack from a younger generation of scientists, particularly Thomas Henry Huxley, and he later published scathing critiques of Charles Darwin and his Origin of Species. Owen was awarded the Copley medal in 1851, the Linnaean medal in 1888, and knighted in 1873, and it was primarily because of his vision and efforts that London’s Natural History Museum was established.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015

Accession number: 2015.18

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Sir Richard Owens (age 69 in 1873)

Subject professions

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.