Have you ever wondered what ‘dinosaur’ means in the first place and who is responsible for coming up with the name? In this article, you will learn about the contributions of the following paleontologists, scientists and other researchers: David Norman, Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach, Henry Osborn, and Richard Owen.
An extensive knowledge of ornithischian clades allowed British paleontologist David B. Norman to make important observations about the genus Iguanodon. He saw that the structure of the dinosaur’s beak would allow it to consume a wide variety of plants. At first, it was thought that the Iguanodon could only eat soft plants. Norman also noted that the dinosaur’s tail was held horizontally, which suggested that it walked on four legs. In 1985, Norman published a book called The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs.
Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach
Hailing from Munich, Germany, Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach (1870 – 1952) was a paleontologist and geologist that located Egyptian dinosaurs between 1911 and 1914. Some of his accomplishments included naming the family of Spinosaurids, which included the Spinosaurus (‘spiny lizard’) , a rather large dinosaur that lived during the late Cretaceous period, and had a collection of spines on its back. Unfortunately, the original specimens held at the Bayerische Staatssammlung museum that dated back 94 million years ago were destroyed when allies bombed Munich in 1944 , when World War II was coming to an end.
The naming of many dinosaurs found in Mongolia and the United States during the early 1900s comes courtesy of U.S. paleontologist Henry F. Osborn (1857 – 1935). In 1891, he started a position as the curator of the American Museum of Natural History. Some of his research touched upon an early mammal with rhinoceros features called brontotheres. One of the dinosaurs that Osborn named was the small, bird-like, omnivorous dinosaur called the Oviraptor (‘egg robber’) in 1924. He also named the Tyrannosaurus (one of the largest meat-eating dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period (in 1905), and Velociraptor (known as the ‘speedy thief’) in 1924.
A pioneer in the dinosaur world was Sir Richard Owen (1804 – 1892), who a British comparative anatomist that came up with the term ‘dinosauria’ to reference the extinct reptiles that lived millions of years ago. The term came from the Greek word “deinos” meaning terrible, and “sauros” meaning lizard. He posed the term to the world after writing an article that was published in the “Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science” in 1842.
Throughout his career, Owen also named and described many other dinosaurs, including the Bothriospondylus, Cardiodon, Chondrosteosaurus, Cimoliornis, Cladeidon, Coloborhynchus, Dacentrurus, and Dinodocus.
Samuel Wendell Williston (1851 to 1918) was a paleontologist who specialized in vertebrate of ancient reptiles. When looking for dinosaur fossils, Williston preferred looking in Colorado and Wyoming. He also had the chance to serve as the assistant to Othniel Marsh at the infamous Yale Peabody Museum from 1876 to 1890.