- 26 February 2015
Sir Richard attended the local school from 1809 to 1819 and went on to found the Natural History Museum. The Society of Biology installed the plaque as part of a new series of ten blue plaques around the UK celebrating the eminent but sometimes unsung heroes of biology.
At the unveiling ceremony Dr David Williams, a fossil and algae researcher at the Natural History Museum, gave a speech:
“Richard Owen was one of the finest palaeontologists to have ever lived, describing many new vertebrates for the first time, including in 1824, the first dinosaur bones, to which he gave the name Dinosauria, meaning terrible lizard in Greek. Owen’s aim was not just to describe these and many other wonderful creatures, but to find a home for them all so that the general public would be able to appreciate their majesty. After a lengthy campaign, in 1881 the doors finally opened in South Kensington where the NHM still stands today, a testament to his persistence and ingenuity.”
The new series of celebratory plaques include those to: in Suffolk, Dorothy Hodgkin, who discovered the structure of Penicillin; Steptoe, Edwards and Purdy, IVF pioneers, in Oldham; and Dolly the Sheep, and the team who created her, in Edinburgh.
The ten blue plaques are part of the national Biology: Changing the World project; which also includes a new app, website, public engagement programme and teaching resources. The free app, available in the apple and android app stores, uses your location to introduce you to the great biologists who lived and worked nearby and biological discoveries which were made in the area.
Dr Mark Downs FSB, chief executive of the Society of Biology said:
“We have a great heritage of scientific discovery and an exciting future, but the biologists who have contributed to our understanding of the world are not always given the appreciation they deserve. We are delighted to be giving these biologists the recognition awarded to other great historical figures through Biology: Changing the World. The project is also a celebration of biology and biologists today. The life sciences will be essential for solving the problems of the 21st Century such as food security and antibiotic resistance. By highlighting our great biology heritage we hope to inspire the next generation.”
The Biology: Changing the World project of the Society of Biology was developed in partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Professor Jackie Hunter, chief executive of the BBSRC, said:
“I’m delighted that BBSRC has been involved with this scheme to raise the profile of unsung heroes of bioscience who have changed the world with their contributions. We hope that these plaques will spark curiosity and help inspire new generations to get involved in the biosciences, which will continue to change the world and help us meet the challenges of the future.”