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Sir Richard Owen Collection


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Owen, Richard, 1804-1892.

Sir Richard Owen was an English biologist, comparative anatomist, and paleontologist. He originally started his education and career by learning medicine, and completed his medical course in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, where he came under the influence of the eminent surgeon John Abernethy. Owen was the first Hunterian Professor of Comparative Anatomy and Physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons in London from 1836 to 1856. (This was a large collection of human and animal anatomical specimens belonging to John Hunter.) He did pioneer work on parthenogenesis and opposed Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. He produced a vast array of scientific work and famously coined the word "dinosaur." One of Owen's greatest achievements was his campaign to get a new home for the natural specimens in the British Museum. This resulted in the now famous Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. Owen was knighted in 1884.

The collection consists of an original autograph manuscript, lecture notes, and two letters of Sir Richard Owen. The manuscript is a draft (56 leaves) of Part Two of a "Report on British Fossil Mammalia." It contains some printed notes and many corrections and annotations by the author. Some of the leaves used by Owen were from an earlier manuscript on zoology. The lecture notes were taken by Owen while he was a student in college. In addition, there is a letter, dated 19 December 1866, by Owen to the President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, recommending C. H. Hitchcock of Amherst for study in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons; the second letter (undated), addressed to "My Dear Neighbour," is about fish and plants of the Mediterranean.

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

"Report on "British Fossil Mammalia" and lecture notes were a gift of C. Davies Sherborn, Esq., through Princeton Prof. Scott, in 1919.

Letter to the President of the Royal College of Surgeons was a gift of Chas. A. Burk in 1909.

Letter to "My Dear Neighbour" was a gift of Princeton Prof. Bonner in 1966.

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

Manuscript Notes Taken in College by Sir Richard Owen, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Manuscript Document: "Report on British Fossil Mammalia", undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter to the President of the College of Surgeons of England, 19 December 1866. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letter to "My Dear Neighbour" Regarding the Hassar-Fish of Demerara and the Black-Goby of the Mediterranean, January 15. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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