Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM
THE PRE-MODERN HISTORY OF THE POST-MODERN DINOSAUR
Because of its sheer abundance, the history of dinosaur art closely reflects the history of scientific dinosaur interpretation, and shows very clearly how profoundly those interpretations have changed since dinosaurs were first reconstructed in the 1820s. The history of dinosaur art can be usefully divided into phases. In all of these phases, the style of restoration is governed both by the nature of available fossils and by the theoretical agendas and background of the paleontologists interpreting those fossils. In particular, the shift back and forth between lumbering, lethargic monsters and hot-blooded, highly active animals seems to have been governed as much by changes in accepted evolutionary theory as by the discovery of new fossils. Richard Owens Crystal Palace sculptures (1851) reflected his anti-evolutionary (i.e., anti-progressive) view that dinosaurs were just as advanced as mammals. The post-1859 history of dinosaur reconstruction is more complex than it would at first appear. This is due, in large part, to the complex reaction to Darwinism among practicing paleontologists. As abundant new fossils came to light in the second half of the nineteenth century, especially in the American West, there followed a period of widely varying views about whether dinosaurs were highly active or stupid and ponderous, or both. O.C. Marsh held both views and was likely undecided at the end of his life; E.D. Cope leaned toward the more active model. As paleontological ideas on evolution turned increasingly toward orthogenesis in the early 20th century, the ponderous model assumed increasing dominance, and almost all other ideas on dinosaur metabolism were excluded from the mainstream. The modern synthesis of the 1930s and '40s banished progressive ideas from evolutionary theory (at least officially), but they held on in dinosaur science (and art), essentially requiring that dinosaurs be seen as archaic and poorly adapted. The revolution in dinosaur paleontology that has occurred since 1970 represents in many ways dinosaur science catching up to evolutionary theory.