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Samuel Stutchbury

Samuel Stutchbury (1798-1859) began his professional career as an assistant at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, where he was appointed in 1820. While there, he drew Gideon Mantell's attention to the resemblance between the teeth of the extant Iguana lizard and Mantell's new Lower Cretaceous teeth, an action that led to the new finds being named Iguanodon (Crane, 1983; Taylor, 1994), the second dinosaur ever named. Stutchbury was then appointed naturalist on the Pacific Pearl Fishing Company's commercial expedition to the Tuamotu Archipelago (Branagan, 1996).

Portraits of Samuel Stutchbury, (A) as he was in the early 1830s, from a hand-tinted print in the BRSMG, and (B) as he was about 1850, from a sketch by Marshall Claxton, published in the Illustrated London News on 3rd July, 1852 (p. 9).

He returned to England in 1827, and worked with his older brother, Henry Rome Stutchbury (1796-1853), a dealer in natural history specimens, while he applied for various official posts. He was eventually appointed curator of the Bristol Institution in 1831, and served there until 1850. During this time, he published accounts of a lizard and of some of the marine invertebrates he had encountered in his Pacific years, but he became ever more immersed in the geology and palaeontology of the Bristol area (Crane, 1983).

Stutchbury resigned his position in Bristol in 1850, having accepted the post of mineral surveyor for New South Wales, presumably a promotion, and indeed a more secure source of income, the Bristol Institution having become somewhat negligent in paying its curator. In a short period in Australia, Stutchbury carried out extensive geological surveying work, and made a major impact on the development of geology in that country. He returned to Bristol in 1856, his health undermined, and he died in poverty in 1859. He is buried in the Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bath Road (A4), Bristol, where his grave may still be seen.

  • Branagan, D.F., 1996. Science in a Sea of Commerce. The Journal of a South Seas Trading Venture (1825-27) by Samuel Stutchbury. Hippo Books, Australia, 246 pp.
  • Crane, M.D., 1983. Samuel Stutchbury (1793-1857), naturalist and geologist. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 37, 189-200.
  • Taylor, M.A., 1994. The plesiosaur's birthplace: the Bristol Institution and its contribution to vertebrate palaeontology. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 112, 179-196.

The paper

Benton, M.J. 2012. Naming the Bristol dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus: politics and science in the 1830s. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 123, 766-778. Download pdf of the paper.

Dicynodon Illustration courtesy of John Sibbick.
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