Richard Owen, a British anatomist, born in Lancaster in 1804. He was for some years a pupil of a surgeon in Lancaster, and in 1824 he attended medical lectures at Edinburgh, acquiring a predilection for the study of comparative anatomy. In 1825 he went to London, became a student at St. Bartholomew's hospital, and was employed by Abernethy as prosector. In 1826 he became a member of the royal college of surgeons, and shortly after by the assistance of Abernethy was appointed assistant curator of the Hunterian museum No catalogue of this collection existed, and Owen prepared in conjunction with Mr. Clift the catalogue of the pathological specimens (2 vols. 4to, 1830), and that of the monsters and malformations (4to, 1831), both comprising descriptions of the specimens. Between 1833 and 1840 Owen produced the elaborate "Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Physiological Series of Comparative Anatomy" (5 vols. 4to). In order to identify the Hunterian preparations, it was necessary to make new dissections for comparison; and while engaged in this occupation he was constantly opening new paths of inquiry and making discoveries.
The materials and suggestions thus acquired have been employed to illustrate four great departments of natural science, viz.: comparative anatomy and physiology, zoology, palaeontology, and transcendental anatomy and physiology. As an anatomist he has extended his labors over the four divisions of the animal kingdom, giving more attention to the vertebrates, and particularly to its chief division, the mammalia, than to either of the others. Among his papers on the mammalia, those devoted to the quadrumana, the carnivora, and the marsupialia are the fullest and most important. His researches among the birds, reptiles, and fishes, both with respect to their classification and their connection with extinct species, have been not less remarkable; and in connection with this branch of his labors he has opened a rich field of inquiry among the extinct birds of New Zealand, resulting in the discovery of the gigantic genus dinornis, with many of its species, and several kindred genera. His "Memoir on the Pearly Nautilus," published in 1832, containing a description of its anatomy, and a proposal for a new classification of the family of cephalopodous mollusks, was followed by an important series of papers on the same subject.
In these investigations he made frequent use of the microscope, and was one of the founders and the first president of the microscopical society. His microscopical investigations of the structure of the teeth of animals led him in 184!) to divide the mammalia into two classes, the monophyodonts, or those generating a single set of teeth, and the diphyodonts, which generate two sets. The most important results of these researches were embodied in his " Odontography " (2 vols. 8vo, London, 1840-45). In the department of palaeontology he reconstructed numerous extinct families of vertebrata, the existence of which had not previously been even surmised. His publications in this department comprise, besides shorter papers, a "History of British Fossil Mammals and Birds" (8vo, 1846); a "Description of the Skeleton of an extinct gigantic Sloth (Mylodon robustus), with Observations on the Osteology, Natural Affinities, and Probable Habits of the Megatheroid Animals in General" (4to, 1842); and a "History of the British Fossil Reptiles" (4to, 1848-,55). In the department of transcendental anatomy, Mr. Owen was the first to develop the idea of < )ken, that the typical form of the skeleton in the higher animals is the vertebra, publishing works "On the Archetype and Homologies of the Vertebrate Skeleton, with Tables of the Synonymes of the Vertebral Elements and Bones of the Head of Fishes, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals, and Man" (1848), and "On the Nature of Limbs" (1840). Among his other writings is a work " On Parthenogenesis " (1840). In 1836 Mr. Owen was appointed Ilunterian professor at the royal college of surgeons, in place of Sir Charles Bell. His lectures here were published under the title of " Lectures on Comparative Anatomy" (2d ed., 1853). In 1856 he was appointed chief of the natural history department of the British museum, which post he still holds (1875), giving in connection with it annual courses of lectures on natural history.
He is also distinguished for his successful efforts toward improving the sanitary condition of large towns. He has received the royal and Copley medals, and various honors from seats of learning, and is a member of the chief scientific bodies of the world. His latest important work is "On the Anatomy of the Vertebrates" (3 vols., 1866-'8).