William Buckland - Megalosaurus and Marriage

Megalosaurus and Marriage

He continued to live in Corpus Christi College and, in 1824, he became president of the Geological Society of London. Here he announced the discovery, at Stonesfield, of fossil bones of a giant reptile which he named Megalosaurus (great lizard) and wrote the first full account of what would later be called a dinosaur.

In 1825, Buckland resigned his college fellowship: he planned to take up the living of Stoke Charity in Hampshire but, before he could take up the appointment, he was made a Canon of Christ Church, a rich reward for academic distinction without serious administrative responsibilities. In December of that year he married Mary Morland of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, an accomplished illustrator and collector of fossils. Their honeymoon was a year touring Europe, with visits to famous geologists and geological sites. She continued to assist him in his work, as well as having nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood. His son Frank Buckland became a well-known practical naturalist, author, and Inspector of Salmon Fisheries. On one occasion, Mary helped him decipher footmarks, found in a slab of sandstone, by covering the kitchen table with paste, while he fetched their pet tortoise and confirmed his intuition, that tortoise footprints matched the fossil marks.

His passion for scientific observation and experiment extended to his home life. Not only was his house filled with specimens – animal as well as mineral, live as well as dead – but he claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom: zoophagy. The most distasteful items were mole and bluebottle; panther, crocodile and mouse were among the other dishes noted by guests. Augustus Hare, a famous English raconteur and contemporary, recalled, “Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French King preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.” The heart in question is said to have been that of Louis XIV. Buckland was followed in this bizarre hobby by his son Frank.

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