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Megalosaurus Month

30 May 2024
A replica Megalosaurus skeleton at Burlington House

More than 3,200 people visited Burlington House to see a replica Megalosaurus skeleton and take part in a series of themed events

February 2024 was Megalosaurus Month at the Geological Society; a festival celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first scientific description of a non-avian dinosaur by our very own former president and first Oxford Professor of Geology, William Buckland [1784 – 1856]. His paper, Notice on the Megalosaurus or great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield, was presented at a meeting of the Geological Society on 20 February 1824.

The Society celebrated this important moment in the history of science with an exhibition based around a replica Megalosaurus skeleton, hosted in our Upper Library, and a plethora of dino-related activities for which we welcomed over 3,200 people into our historic Burlington House building.

Each day saw something new as activities appealed to a range of interests and ages. From lino-printing workshops and life drawing classes, half-term children’s activities and school’s workshops, a recreation of Buckland’s teaching room from Oxford University, networking receptions for students and an incredibly popular Public Lecture that saw more than 500 people register – it was a month to remember.

Children were able to get up close and personal to our Megalosaurus and other exciting fossils

Dino Discovery Zone and school workshops

Over February half-term we offered free dino activities for children and their families. Each child was given their own ‘Dinosaur Passport’ in which each page held a different activity to complete. Activities included learning about dinosaur teeth and the food they eat, how to dig up and record fossils, understanding dinosaur communication and creating their own dinosaur. Importantly, we wanted the children to have fun and feel inspired by getting up close and personal to our Megalosaurus and other exciting fossils.

Our fantastic Education Team held school workshops where children learnt about the different types of fossils, and were encouraged to think about how different parts of fossils can tell us important information about the food dinosaurs ate, the sounds they might have made, and the environments they lived in. In total, over 500 children enjoyed our free dino activities at Burlington House.

Life (death) drawing classes

In these artistic sessions, participants were encouraged to engage with the grand setting of the Library and its atmospheric light and shadow to create dramatic sketches of the Megalosaurus skeleton with geologist and artist Emma Theresa Jude. Emma skilfully led the participants, encouraging them to engage with different techniques and to capture the skeleton from different perspectives. Often all that could be heard during the classes was the sound of charcoal gently rubbing on paper, as participants immersed themselves in their work. The results were amazing.

Lino print workshop

The skill of printing and the ability to accurately replicate scientific drawings was revolutionary for their distribution and played an important role in the sharing of knowledge globally, contributing to the advancement of science.

The lino print session began with an overview of the importance of printing, with the participants then taken step-by-step through the process. Participants carefully chose a focus point of the Megalosaurus, first drawing it before tracing it onto lino and carefully beginning to carve. The group then took it in turns to add ink to the lino, and excitedly watched their designs come to life.

Student networking

Geoscience students were invited to Burlington House to enjoy a viewing of the Megalosaurus and to network with fellow students and staff members. Our student members impressed us with their enthusiasm and took part in activities and crafts including making their own dinosaur jewellery.

Public lecture

Our Megalosaurus Month Public Lecture, Dinosaurs: Changing views in the last 200 years, was delivered by Professor Michael Benton OBE and was our most popular Public Lecture to date, with over 500 registrations.

Professor Benton is a palaeontologist who studies dinosaurs and mass extinctions. One of his great discoveries was to kick off a new field of research in determining the colour of dinosaurs – rated as one of the top scientific discoveries of the 2010s. He was awarded an OBE in 2021 for his work in the public understanding of science, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014 for his fundamental contributions to understanding the history of life. He is fascinated by the transformation of palaeobiology from a speculative subject to testable science.

It was fantastic to have his expertise form part of Megalosaurus Month and captivate such a large audience alongside a special introductory reading of William Buckland’s Notice on the Megalosaurus or great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield, 200 years after it was first presented at the Geological Society in 1824.

A reconstruction of William Buckland’s teaching room

Megalosaurus Month activities included a reconstruction of William Buckland’s teaching room

Buckland’s teaching room

We were delighted to welcome Dr Susan Newell to give a talk focusing on a celebrated print from 1823 that shows William Buckland teaching in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

What appears to be a straightforward representation of an academic teacher in his lecture room, surrounded by specimens and illustrations, conceals a more complex story interwoven with concerns around patronage, showmanship, romance, and the pressing need to convince audiences of the importance of the new science of geology.

For this immersive event, the audience were seated in a recreation of Buckland’s teaching room in our Upper Library.

Megalosaurus resources

To find out more about our school workshops, free educational resources, geoscience careers, public lectures, or to become a student member, visit www.geolsoc.org.uk

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