A cathedral to nature

The Natural History Museum is Richard Owen’s ‘cathedral to nature’; his empire and legacy to the science.

The man who gave ‘dinosaur’ its name, Richard Owen (1804-1892) was one of the greatest comparative anatomists of his time. 

After leading a campaign to build a dedicated natural history museum on the site of the 1851 Great Exhibition in South Kensington, he became the Museum’s first Superintendent of Natural History in 1856.

The Museum, opened to the public in 1881, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905). The Archives still hold his elaborate sketches of the Museum, together with Owen’s meticulous plans.

The Owen collection includes scientific papers, illustrations, and correspondence documenting his association with the scientific community.