William Perceval Hunter (1812–1878), forgotten English student of dinosaurs-to-be and of Wealden rocks
Published:January 01, 2010
H. S. Torrens, 2010. "William Perceval Hunter (1812–1878), forgotten English student of dinosaurs-to-be and of Wealden rocks", Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, R. T. J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish, D. M. Martill
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This paper examines the tragic life of William Perceval (wrongly Percival) Hunter (1812–1878), who was active right across natural history in the period 1828–1841. He was a nephew of the ‘father of American Geology’, William Maclure, but, despite this, has been completely forgotten. He produced a number of books and papers, some of which discussed what were to become dinosaurs in 1842, and the Wealden, and adjoining rocks, which had produced so many of them. Hunter was, notably, one of the first to draw attention to the Isle of Wight as a favoured fossil locality for these, among the many other natural history topics he covered. His problems were initially his itinerancy, then his failure to complete projects, coupled with their publication privately, obscurely and abroad. But the major problem comes from his forgotten end; first, in a Scottish medical ‘confinement’ from 1841 and, finally, within a major asylum there, until 1878. This left him unable to complete his projects and with an indelible mark on any reputation he might have acquired.
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Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective
The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’—a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin—makes exciting reading and has caught the attention of palaeontologists, historians of science and the general public alike. The papers in this collection go beyond the familiar tales about famous ‘fossil hunters’ and focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other inhabitants of the Mesozoic world. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of ‘modern’ scientific palaeontology in the 1700s to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to Central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well-known, others quite obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors, and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.