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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.

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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

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Sir Richard Owens (age 69 in 1873)

Subject professions

Science and technology

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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