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Dinosaurs Discovered
People have been uncovering the remains of dinosaurs for millenia, but figuring out that the monstrous bones were left behind by giant reptiles that roamed the Earth millions of years ago was a recent discovery. Actually naming the long-extinct creature "dinosaurs" is credited to British anatomist Sir Richard Owen. 

In 1838, Owen was commissioned by the British Association for the Advancement of Science to study the fossils of large, terrestrial reptiles that had been recently found. Initially, he believed they were huge lizards, but further study and new specimens -- particularly the fused sacral vertebrae that were distinctly different from other lizards -- convinced him that he was looking at a previously unidentified type of reptile. 

He proposed a new group for these reptiles and named it Dinosauria (from the Greek "deinos" meaning fearfully great, and "sauros" meaning lizard).

Owen introduced this new group in an article published in the "Proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science" in 1842. In that article, Owen wrote:

"The combination of such characters, some, as it were, from groups now distinct from each other, and all manifested by creatures far surpassing in size the largest of existing reptiles, will, it is presumed, be deemed sufficient ground for establishing a distinct tribe or suborder of Saurian Reptiles, for which I would propose the name of Dinosauria." 

Owen initially grouped the three vanished genera - Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus -- in the Dinosauria suborder.  On that day the "dinosaur," you might say, was named and officially discovered. That moment out of the recent past defined these creatures out of the distant past.  

 The Fossil Hunter
The Fossil Hunter
Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World
by Shelley Emling

Palgrave Macmillan, 2011

Mary Anning, a working class British woman, achieved international fame in the 19th century with fossil discoveries of what were eventually identified as dinosaurs. In the Blue Lias cliffs and the Lyme Regis fossil beds near her home she exposed the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified,  the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found, the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany, and several important fish fossils.

In this groundbreaking biography, Shelley Emling unearths the story of this forgotten figure in dinosaur history. "At a time when a woman did not walk in public with a man to whom she was not related, Mary was visited frequently by many great scholars, all of them men, in search of information as much a fossils," Emling explains.

Many of those same men, like Sir Richard Owen, received accolades for discoveries they never dirtied their hands to get. "During lectures, Owen often discusssed the different types of
ichthyosaurs without ever mentioning that Mary had actually found them," Emling points out.

Starring T Rex
Starring T. Rex!:
Dinosaur Mythology and Popular Culture

Indiana University Press, 2002

Spanish paleontologist and dinosaur enthusiast Jose Luis Sanz analyzes the sociocultural phenomenon of dinosaurs -- creatures from the remote past that fascinate humans.

Sanz's book looks at the cultural influence of dinosaurs on scientists, educators and the mass media.

"Dinosaurs are firmly rooted in popular culture," he explains. "They constitute one of the clearest areas of interaction between scientific information and the public's thirst for knowledge -- in this instance, knowledge concerning life in the past."

Sanz follows the history of dinosaur discoveries and shows how this information has been translated into mythologies that often have little resemblance to the sources of their inspiration.

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Four Seasons on the Green and Yampa Rivers

by Jo Ellen Moore

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