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Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was a 19th century British artist and naturalist who significantly changed the way society thought about the world and its pre-human inhabitants. Hawkins drew worldwide attention in 1868 when he created the first mount of a dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus foulkii, at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
The museum remounted a cast of Hadrosaurus in November 2008 and in celebration of this event, the Academy published this the first full-length biography of Hawkins. The authors have divided All in the Bones into two complementary sections. Valerie Bramwell, the artist's great-great-great-granddaughter, focuses on the complex personal life and times of Hawkins, while Robert M. Peck, Curator of Art and Artifacts and Senior Fellow at the Academy, focuses on the artist's contributions to science and art.
One of the most versatile and prolific natural-history artists of the Victorian age, Hawkins (1807-1894) played a central role in the popularization of 19th-century science. His knowledge of comparative anatomy and versatility at painting enabled him to create beautiful and scientifically accurate illustrations of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, and the fossils of long-extinct creatures for such important figures as Richard Owen, Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley early in his career.
Hawkins went on to make the first life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures anywhere in the world. In 1854, his dinosaur sculptures at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham (South London) captured the attention of millions of people and introduced the world to "dinosauromania". In 1868, he wowed the world again by assembling the first reasonably complete dinosaur skeleton found anywhere in the world, Hadrosaurus foulkii, unearthed in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and displayed at the Academy.
All in the Bones points out that the articulated skeletons of dinosaurs and life-size models of how they may once have appeared are now so common in natural history museums that people take them for granted. But until Hawkins created such things in the second half of the 19th century, dinosaurs and their kin were little known, poorly understood, and of little interest to all but a handful of professional palaeontologists. Through a series of public displays in Great Britain and the U.S., Hawkins almost single-handedly ignited a popular interest in dinosaurs and other forms of prehistoric life that continues to the present day.
During his ten years in America (1868-1878), Hawkins designed exhibit halls for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and began to create an enormous paleontological museum for New York City. The museum was to have been in Central Park. It was destroyed in 1871 by William "Boss" Tweed, a corrupt politician, who felt that he wasn't adequately compensated for his patronage. Following the tragic loss of his studio at the hands of Tweed's vandals, Hawkins moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where he created a series of large oil paintings of prehistoric life for Princeton University.
All in the the Bones, is based on years of meticulous research in libraries, archives and museums in England and the U.S., including family papers, letters, sketchbooks and private records that have never been available to scholars before. All in the Bones also includes several appendices, including a detailed time-line of Hawkins' professional career.