Scientist of the Day - Louis Dollo
Louis Dollo, a Belgian paleontologist, was born Dec. 7, 1857 (see second image above). Dollo was working at the Royal Museum of Natural History in Brussels when a cache of dinosaur bones was discovered 1000 feet underground in a coal mine in Bernissart in 1878. As the bones were slowly extracted--they tended to disintegrate when exposed to air--they were revealed to be the remains of a number of Iguanodon, massive plant-eating dinosaurs of the early Cretaceous period. It fell to Dollo's lot to reconstruct some of the skeletons for the Museum. The only Iguanodon known to date were those found in England by Gideon Mantell and Richard Owen, and they had been reconstructed as rhino-like quadrupeds (third image). Dollo, with so many complete skeletons at his disposal, realized that Iguanodon must have been bipedal, and he restored them as such, using flightless birds like the emu as his models (first image above, a painting made from a photograph).
Eventually, 8 of the skeletons were mounted, and they made a very impressive display at the Museum--in fact, they still do, in their glass cubicle (fourth image). But since we now know that Iguanodon, while bipedal, moved about more like a kangaroo, with its forelimbs on the ground, one of Dollo's mounts has been redone to conform to current conceptions (fifth image). Thankfully, they left the rest alone. We displayed one of Dollo's original restorations in our Paper Dinosaurs exhibition in 1996.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.