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Robert Owen And Conan Doyle About Dinosaurs

Updated on August 22, 2018
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Mykola is a convinced supporter of whole methods in teaching foreign languages, using as approaches art and science simultaneously.


The aim of this article is to show possibilities of synthetic thinking in analysis of literary works. The history of science is a powerful tool in this process. Robert Owen made a great contribution in it, inventing the term Dinosaur.

Looking at scientific and literary texts in tandem, we will focus on lost worlds. They are both real and imagined, compliment each other successfully.

It will help to confirm the scientific hypothesis in speculative fiction of Conan Doyle, and to ground the appearance of dinosaurs in the novel. Also, we destine this article for students studying English as a foreign language. It pays attention to the Greek and Latin roots of English scientific terms.

Sir Richard Owen, British Famous Paleontologist

The Term Dinosaur

Scientists began studying dinosaurs in the 1820s. They found the bones of a great land reptile under the soil of English countryside. Sir Richard Owen, the first, proposed the term "dinosaur" in 1842. As said above, this word is from the Ancient Greek word "deinos", i.e. terrible and sauros - "lizard" or "reptile".

He was a leading British comparative anatomist, museum curator, and paleontologist. He used dinosauria in the Report of the British Association. As he was the paleontologist, he described many species of dinosaurs.

The pupils of Darwin considered Richard Owen as a no-evolutionist and an anti-evolutionist. Owen had been working in the sphere of descriptive or rational morphology. Owen's concept of evolution is a coherent consequence of von Baer's divergent development.

Natural History Museum, Indoors

It Seems Lost Worlds would be Flying under the Vaults of this Museum

In 1856, R. Owen became superintendent of the history's department in the British Museum. He was instrumental in the establishment of the separate British Museum (Natural History). He started as the first director in 1881. The fossils of dinosaurs appeared in it.

No doubt, Conan Doyle was attending this museum.

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Pterodactyl, from Greek Pterodactulos, Meaning "Winged Finger", was Described by Italian Scientist Cosimo Alessandro Collini in 1784

One of Descriptions of Pterodactyl in the Lost World, Chapter 9.

. The whole group of us were covered for an instant by a canopy of leathery wings, and I had a momentary vision of a long, snake-like neck, a fierce, red, greedy eye, and a great snapping beak, filled, to my amazement, with little, gleaming teeth.

About the Main Hero

Pterosaurs are an extinct monophyletic clade of ornithodiran archosauromorph reptiles. They are from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous. Pterodactylus is a genus of pterosaurs. After Cosimo Collini it was Georges Cuvier who coined the term “Pterodactyle” in 1809. It happened after the discovery of a fossil skeleton in Bavaria, Germany.

The first published depiction appears in the watercolour of Henry de la Beche. Several pterosaurs are flitting over ichthyosaur and plesiosaur. Richard Owen’s (1870) also included pterosaurs in his classic textbook “Palaeontology".

Iguanodon. From Spanish Iguana + Greek Odon, Variant Odous-Tooth. The Genus was Named in 1825 by English Geologist Gideon Mantell

Description of Iguanodon in the Lost World, of Conan Doyle

The moonlight shone upon his huge projecting eyes, the row of enormous teeth in his open mouth, and the gleaming fringe of claws upon his short, powerful forearms.

Description of Iguanodon in the Report of British Association, made by R.Owen

. No. (“Gigantic vertebra of Iguanodon,” MS. Catalogue of Mantellian Collection,) is a posterior dorsal vertebra of the Cetiosaurus brevis, and ex hibits in a striking manner the peculiar characters of this species, viz. the great depth and breadth, especially the latter dimension, as compared with the length or antero-posterior diameter of the centrum or body of the vertebra.

In the Iguanodon the sides of the vertebral body are nearly flat in the vertical direction; in the Cetiosaurus they are strongly convex.

Portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sitting at theTable in his Garden Bignell Wood, New Forest,1927

In 1994, Arthurdactylus a genus of pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Brazil was named in honor of Arthur Conan Doyle

Power of Imagination

The Lost World of Conan Doyle united in one range of time and space different epochs.

There were gigantic dinosaurs of Mesozoic era. Their period was of hundreds a million years ago.

Also, there were Fororakos, Toxodons of Cenozoic era. Further, anthropoid apes for which a modern science gives 25 millions years.

The disparities in time and space of C. Doyle had an acute reaction from the part of specialists. For example, in 1915 the famous Russian scientist V. Obrutchev wrote the novel "Plutonia". He wanted counterbalance Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. However, the author overcharged his novel with scientific objectivity and it had no artistic success.

Conan Doyle was knowing about the Law of Irreversible Evolution. Belgian scientist Louis Dollo formulated it. On the contrary, he created an original artistic and scientific fantastic world. There had been some facts which influenced on the artist's intention. Firstly, it was the book of Professor R.Lankester "Extinct animals".

Conan Doyle shared interest in every possible way to paleontology. In his billiards' room he kept two moulds from the footprints of Iguanodon. He found it in the limes of Crowborough.

There was his dinner's speech in the Queen Scientific Society. One was honouring Robert Peery, head of the expedition to the Northern Pole. Conan Doyle said about diminution of unknown places on the Earth. He wanted to discover unknown territory for outstanding literary adventures. He did it in his mind for that moment. Moreover, no doubt, the Dinosaur of R. Owen strengthened his intention about The Lost World.

Influence of Scientific Texts on the Creative Activities of Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle knew well Ray Lankester's book "Extinct animals" and his Professor Challenger showed a copy to Malone for illustrating a Stegosaurus:” ...this is an excellent monograph by my gifted friend Ray Lankester... There is illustration here that would interest you. Ah, here it is! The inscription beneath it runs: probable appearance in life of the Jurassic dinosaur Stegosaurus.”

Also, Seely's (1901) Dragons of the Air, 239 pages, devoted to pterosaurs was the suitable account available to Conan Doyle. Seeley gave a series of public lectures on flying reptiles at the Royal Institution, April 1875. It was a little probable Conan Doyle attended them, being a "15 year" student at Stoneyhurst College. However, the lectures would have promoted to develop his fantasy.

Conan Doyle and using of scientific terms in his creative activities
Species of dinosaurs
Pterodactylus or Dimorphodon

Roraima Mount and Dinosaurs

Also Roraima Inspired Conan Doyle with The Lost World

More than 9.200 feet high, Roraima is the sacred place for the Pemons, indigenous people. This is the symbol for many Venezuelans. In Pemon language, it became known as "tepuis", meaning "house of gods".

A mystic table-topped mountain on the Venezuela- Brazil border inspired The Lost World and provided the appearance of dinosaurs in it. The novel based on description of Bolivia.

Percy Harrison Fawcett addressed to Conan Doyle letters from this country. He was his friend. The movie The Lost City of Z was dedicated to this British explorer. He disappeared while searching for a mysterious city on the Amazon in the 1920s.

Trustworthiness of the Image of Professor Challenger, Scientist, in Literature

Conan Doyle created a new character of modern scientist.

Professor Challenger, as a real scientist, formulates his own hypothesis. It is about the lost world and its inhabitants. South America is a granite continent with former and actual volcanic activities. That's why in some places these circumstances suspended the ordinary laws of Nature. The observed dinosaurs, pterodactyl and stegosaurus, have conserved due to those accidental conditions.

Challenger continues to practice the experimental method of famous F. Bacon. The hypothesis is following the Darwin's theory partly. The scene between Professor Challenger and the ape-male has an ironical shade.

Creatures which were supposed to be Jurassic, monsters who would hunt down and devour our largest and fiercest mammals, still exist."

Could you name 10 species of dinosaurs in one minute?

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Contribution of Scientists to the Content of English Vocabulary

English language increased its volume due to using words from ancient Greek.

Some scientists, Robert Owen among them, were using the vocabulary of ancient Greek, creating new terms, as in our case with different dinosaurs, the species of which Conan Doyle described in The Lost World. Ancient Greek was taught in European schools as obligatory one.

Nowadays this creative role in science plays English.

Conclusion: the Theme of Dinosaurs is Inexhaustible in Science and Art

Allen A.Debuz demonstrates this quality in a thematic survey "Dinosaurs in Fantastic Fiction". There is a great list of artists which try to explain in images destiny of dinosaurs. The study of dinosaurs has been experiencing a remarkable renaissance in human society.

In scientists' turn, research of dinosaur evolution has advanced to a very high degree. Paleontologists often know more about 100-million-year-old dinosaurs than many species of living organisms.

Imagination of the artist may be more real than objectivity of the scientific text.

Science and art are interconnected. Art wakes up energy for new scientific researching. The scientist Robert Owen and the author Conan Doyle were at the sources of this process.

© 2018 Mykola


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Thank you.

    • Mykola profile imageAUTHOR


      2 months ago from Ukraine

      Thanks. I will try. Yours.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      You may want to consider watching The Shape of Things to Come. It is an H.G. Wells movie and he instructed those making the movie to do the opposite of what was done in Metropolis.

    • Mykola profile imageAUTHOR


      2 months ago from Ukraine

      Hi, Robert! I will watch Metropolis to compare with Lost World. Thanks. Yours.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      I love all the interesting facts in this article about dinosaurs, Robert Owen and Arthur Conan Doyle, and more. Obrustchev's opposition to Arthur Conan Doyle's novel reminds me of the scathing review H.G. Wells made of the movie Metropolis. I'm a fan of Wells but I think his review of Metropolis made Wells look bad.


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