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Academy publishes first biography of artist-naturalist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins
Date:7/17/2008

PHILADELPHIA Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was a 19th-century British artist and naturalist who significantly changed the way society thought about the world and its pre-human inhabitants. Hawkins drew worldwide attention in 1868 when he created the first mount of a dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus foulkii, at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

As the museum prepares to remount a cast of Hadrosaurus in November, the Academy is pleased to announce publication of the first full-length biography of Hawkins. All In the Bones: A Biography of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (ISBN 978-0-910006-65-1) is based on years of meticulous research in libraries, archives and museums in England and the U.S., including family papers, letters, sketchbooks and private records that have never been available to scholars before. The authors have divided the publication into two complementary sections. Valerie Bramwell, the artist's great-great-great-granddaughter, focuses on the complex personal life and times of Hawkins, while Robert M. Peck, Curator of Art and Artifacts and Senior Fellow at the Academy, focuses on the artist's contributions to science and art.

One of the most versatile and prolific natural-history artists of the Victorian age, Hawkins (1807-1894) played a central role in the popularization of 19th-century science. His knowledge of comparative anatomy and versatility at painting enabled him to create beautiful and scientifically accurate illustrations of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, and the fossils of long-extinct creatures for such important figures as Richard Owen, Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley early in his career.

Hawkins went on to make the first life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures anywhere in the world. In 1854, his dinosaur sculptures at the "Crystal Palace" in Sydenham (South London) captured the attention of millions of people and introduced the world to "dinosauromania." In 1868, he wowed the world again by assembling the first reasonably complete dinosaur skeleton found anywhere in the world, Hadrosaurus foulkii, unearthed in Haddonfield, N.J., and displayed at The Academy of Natural Sciences. In November, the Academy, the oldest natural science research museum in the Americas, will mark the 150th anniversary of the scientific description of Hadrosaurus by remounting its cast.

"All In The Bones" points out that the articulated skeletons of dinosaurs and life-size models of how they may once have appeared are now so common in natural history museums that people take them for granted. But until Hawkins created such things in the second half of the 19th century, dinosaurs and their kin were little known, poorly understood, and of little interest to all but a handful of professional paleontologists. Through a series of public displays in Great Britain and the U.S., Hawkins almost single-handedly ignited a popular interest in dinosaurs and other forms of prehistoric life that continues to the present day.

Hawkins' Work in America

During his ten years in America (1868-1878), Hawkins designed exhibit halls for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and began to create an enormous paleontological museum for New York City. The museum was to have been in Central Park. It was destroyed in 1871 by "Boss" Tweed, a corrupt politician, who wasn't adequately compensated for his patronage. Following the tragic loss of his studio at the hands of Tweed's vandals, Hawkins moved to Princeton N.J., where he created a series of large oil paintings of prehistoric life for Princeton University.

"All In the Bones: A Biography of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins" is available at the Academy Shop. It also can be purchased by mail by sending a check made out to "The Academy of Natural Sciences" and sent to: Academy Publications (Hawkins Book), The Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103. The cost is $45, plus shipping and handling of $5 per book within the U.S. and $10 per book for over-seas orders.


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Contact: Carolyn Belardo
belardo@ansp.org
215-299-1043
The Academy of Natural Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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