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Episode 63: New Jersey’s Dinosaur: the Hadrosaurus foulkii

podcast Dec 09, 2021

In this episode, Sharon shares the fascinating story behind New Jersey’s Hadrosaurus foulkii, the first full dinosaur skeleton to be discovered anywhere in the world. The skeleton was unearthed in 1858 when naturalist William Parker Foulke was vacationing in Haddonfield, New Jersey. At the time, very few people had heard the term “dinosaur” but Foulke and his comrade, paleontologist Joseph Leidy, spent the next few years uncovering, researching, and sharing the two-story tall “Bulky Lizard” with museum crowds of visitors who were in awe of the prehistoric creature. And here we are, still fascinated with dinosaurs today!

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • The Victorian history of paleontology.
  • Who pursued natural sciences in the 1850s
  • Where the Hadrosaurus foulkii was found
  • How the skeleton was dug up and preserved
  • How the Hadrosaurus foulkii proved that dinosaurs could be bipedal
  • Where the dinosaur skeleton was mounted and displayed
  • The public’s reaction to the discovery

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • The first virtually complete dinosaur skeleton discovered in North America was unearthed in 1858 by William Parker Foulke in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Vacationing in Haddonfield, Foulke, a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, was shown bones by the farmer he dined with. The farmer, John Hopkins, had been digging up marl on his land 20 years earlier when workmen unearthed a number of curious large bones that Hopkins then gave away to his family and neighbors.
  •  William Foulke had a hobby interest in geology and returned to unearth an almost-complete dinosaur skeleton with paleontologist Joseph Leidy. The Hadrosaurus foulkii, as it was later named, proved that the existence of dinosaurs in the US was real, and provided the evidence that dinosaurs could be bipedal. 
  • In 1868, it became the first dinosaur skeleton in the world to be mounted on display. Because the men had not been able to find the skull of the Hadrosaurus foulkii, British sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins had to guess and create a plaster approximation of one before the skeleton was put on display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. The dinosaur skeleton became a world-famous exhibit and was a driving force in the public's fascination with prehistoric animals.

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