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William Buckland

Hyenas and dinosaurs and bears, oh my! Arpita tells the story of the eccentric clergyman who wrote the first account of a dinosaur fossil and laid the foundations of geology and paleontology.

Episode Transcript Arpita: 0:08 Happy New Year, Aarati! Aarati: 0:10 Happy New Year, Arpita. Arpita: 0:11 How was your break? How was your holiday? Aarati: 0:14 Um, pretty good, pretty low key, uh, my family and I didn't really have any big plans, so we just went to Auburn, which is just a little bit east of Sacramento, and there's like a beautiful waterfall there that I had no idea was there, we did some hiking. Arpita: 0:33 Oh yeah, I had no idea. Aarati: 0:35 Yeah, yeah, it was, it was, it was really nice, really low key. Arpita: 0:39 Did your brother come visit? Aarati: 0:40 Yeah, my well, my brother actually is the one who planned the whole thing, which was really nice. I love that Yeah, it's just like thank you for taking that mental load and... Arpita: 0:50 Such a nice thing. Aarati: 0:51 Yeah. Arpita: 0:52 Having it all planned out. Aarati: 0:53 I want, I wanted to go somewhere, but like not too far away, and you know, I wanted to take my dog, and so that limits our options. And, I just wanted to get, get away from home a little bit, so, he, he did his research and he's like, we're going to Auburn, and I'm like, okay, great, but then it was actually lovely. Arpita: 1:14 A little random, but great, yeah. Aarati: 1:16 Yeah, it was, it was actually lovely, and that's all I needed. I was just like, just, just three days away from home, reset, be with nature, it was lovely. Arpita: 1:26 That sounds so perfect. Aarati: 1:27 Yeah. Arpita: 1:28 That's so nice. Aarati: 1:29 Yeah. How about you? Arpita: 1:30 I unfortunately had a not awesome holiday. Uh, I got COVID on Christmas day. Aarati: 1:35 Oh no! Do you know who gave it to you? Arpita: 1:39 I do know who gave it to me. Aarati: 1:41 God. Arpita: 1:43 Um, it is, it was just like such a bummer. Um, it was actually, so like it wasn't all bad. I got boosted recently, so I didn't really have. symptoms. Like I was actually pretty symptom free. I had like a scratchy throat for like a day or two, but then it really sucked because when you're like. When you're sick, you can commit to fully being sick. Aarati: 2:04 Yeah. Arpita: 2:05 You're just, I'm just gonna sleep all day, I'm gonna eat the snacks, drink the tea, watch TV. Aarati: 2:10 Yeah. Arpita: 2:10 But I felt fine, but I couldn't go anywhere. Aarati: 2:14 Oh, yeah. Arpita: 2:15 And that sucked. Aarati: 2:16 Oh, that's so annoying. That's so annoying. Arpita: 2:19 Really annoying. It was really annoying, but we're in the clear now. Um, I got. my negative tests, and I have emerged from my sick home. Aarati: 2:28 But I feel like that's just the way, right? Like you get a break from work and school or whatever, and it's just like, oh yes, I have one week off, or I have a week and a half off, and inevitably during that time you get sick. Arpita: 2:46 Basically, exactly what happened to me, um, yeah, I guess for, well, you know this, but for our listeners who don't know, I'm getting married in May. And so I did use my time slightly wisely and I answered a lot of emails and I checked a lot of things off my list. I was like, okay, if we're going to quarantine, I'm going to email all the vendors. Aarati: 3:07 Be productive. Arpita: 3:08 Do all the random things that I probably should have done a couple of months ago, but Aarati: 3:12 That's amazing. Arpita: 3:14 Yeah. It could have been worse, I guess. Aarati: 3:15 You'll be thanking yourself in, come April and May, you'll be like, Oh my God, this was a blessing in disguise. Arpita: 3:25 Um, but I'm so excited to be here. Recording episode two. This is so exciting. We get to do a whole another episode. Aarati: 3:33 I wanted to share something with you really quickly. That was just like the randomest, I don't know, coincidence so when we were in Auburn, I was with my family, and we, we had just come back from a hike, we were all just kind of chilling, and I was like, let's put on a movie, something kind of, you know, innocuous, that everyone doesn't have to really pay attention to, you know, like, whatever. Yeah, just background. Kind of thing, you know, and so I was flipping through I was like, oh Marvel movies are always good And so I put on the first Iron Man movie and in like the beginning, um, a reporter comes up to him and asks him like, Hey, what do you think about your nicknames? One of them being the Merchant of Death. And I was like, was was that just an Alfred Nobel reference? Like, did Arpita: 4:22 Was it? Aarati: 4:23 It was, I was like, as I was watching the movie, I was like, they're actually, that's actually like such a great parallel with this character, Tony Stark, and Alfred Nobel, because in Iron Man movie, I mean spoilers, but like the movie is 15 years old or something, so, if you haven't watched it, that's on you, but like, but like Tony Stark, he made his fortunes creating weapons for the American military, and then he realizes that his weapons have fallen into the wrong hands, but his whole schtick was like, if I make the best weapons we'll have the biggest guns, we'll have the best bombs, and no one will want to mess with us, and then we will have world peace, because everyone's going to be too scared. And I'm like Arpita: 5:09 Sounds like we've heard this story before. Aarati: 5:10 Yeah, exactly. And I was like, did the writers just put an Alfred Nobel reference into the Iron Man movie? And I just now got that because of Episode one that we did. Arpita: 5:22 I would have never gotten that. Aarati: 5:23 I know and Arpita: 5:24 What a like niche but like very cool Sort of like reference cameo. Aarati: 5:29 Yeah, and then like the same thing happens. He's like, oh no Is this going to be my reputation that you know, I'm... like Stark Industries is creating all these weapons for war and death and destruction, and so he shuts down the weapons manufacturing branch of his company, and then that's what prompts him to make the Iron Man suit, so that goes in a different direction, but, you know, I was just like, Wow, Arpita: 5:54 That's really cool. Aarati: 5:56 Isn't that crazy? So now I'm like super pumped to hear like all the stories I'm like, oh my god. What Arpita: 6:03 what else did we miss? Aarati: 6:04 Yeah, what else have we missed? so I'm like really excited to hear your story now. Arpita: 6:10 I am really excited to share today's story we'll pivot a little bit. We are talking about dinosaurs today. Aarati: 6:18 Awesome. Arpita: 6:18 And we're talking about the man who first discovered dinosaurs and fossilized remains. Um, I have to pause here and tell you that my favorite movie of all time, or at least in my top three, is Jurassic Park, the original one with Laura Dern. am so excited to talk about this specific individual. Aarati: 6:34 Awesome. Arpita: 6:34 Um, his name is William Buckland, and I feel like this was really interesting for me, because this whole story takes place in the very beginning of the 19th century, right? 1800s is 19th century? Aarati: 6:50 Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. You are correct. Yes. Arpita: 6:53 The very beginning of the 19th century, which feels like Not that long ago for how integral the existence of dinosaurs feel like to pop culture and just like the way I don't know even just from like a young age like you play with dinosaurs and there's like Dinosaur TV shows and like The Land Before Time and it just feels like such a core part Of, pop culture. Aarati: 7:16 Yeah. Arpita: 7:16 And it was really interesting to me to, hear about, how, obviously someone was the first to discover them, Aarati: 7:21 Yeah, but you would have thought that someone would have done it, or realized it before, or, like, found something before. Arpita: 7:27 Or just, like, happened upon something. Aarati: 7:30 Yeah. Arpita: 7:31 But I'm really excited to tell you all about him. So, we'll just dive right in. So William Buckland was born in 1784 in Devon. He was born in England, and he was the oldest son of Charles Buckland, and his dad was a member of the clergy, and his family, they were all active members of the Church of England. Um, his hometown that he lived in had A lot of, quarries, and so, these, like, old mines where there was a lot of fossilized remains, and so, when he was a kid, he liked to run around, and he liked to collect rocks, and shells, and other fossils, so he really started, an interest in the earth and geology from, a very young age. Aarati: 8:10 So those fossils that were there, they were just, like, shells or something? Like, people didn't realize? Arpita: 8:17 I think so. Aarati: 8:18 Like, people were not thinking a bout big creatures. Is that correct? Arpita: 8:22 That's definitely what it seems like. The biographies and, like, accounts that I was reading say fossils in quotes, but hearing the rest of the story, which we'll get to, it doesn't really seem like they knew that those were fossils, necessarily, or, like, something that was like, Ancient. I think he was probably just a young kid who thought these rocks looked really cool and had like imprints of, you know, shells or leaves or other sort of creatures. And he thought they looked cool and was fascinated by them. But I don't think it becomes apparent until much later that they are ancient remains. Aarati: 8:58 Yeah. Like he didn't get how old they actually were. Arpita: 9:01 Yeah. Aarati: 9:02 Okay. Yeah. I don't think that was the case, but I think we'll sort of uncover his thought process a little bit later in the story. Okay. Arpita: 9:09 So, he really liked the earth, really liked geology, but we don't really know a lot about his childhood, I mean, this was like the late 1700s, but by all accounts, he kind of seems like a good little English boy. He went to St. Mary's College Preparatory School, and then he went to Oxford in 1801 to start his degree in theology. He finished his B. A. in 1804 and then stayed at Oxford to take students. So he's basically a grad student at this point. Um, and he's TAing. That's, that's what he's doing. And he's focusing on theology, but In his free time, he starts going to some of his colleagues lectures, and these were studies in mineralogy, chemistry, and anatomy. He got his MA and then he was an ordained priest. So I like thought about this a little bit more and I was like, okay, this is Oxford. It's the really early 1800s. Like the focus of this university was primarily religious. Like most people there were going there to be priests and they had other studies and they called them, you know, classics and history and everyone was learning Latin, but. There wasn't really this focus on natural sciences and what we think of as STEM today like that wasn't really a huge thing. Most of the focus was to become a member of the clergy So it's a little bit offbeat that he was interested in theology and becoming a priest, but also had this sort of, like, side hobby of being interested in geology. Aarati: 10:38 I mean, I guess that kind of makes sense because, like, okay, I, I don't really know a lot about Christianity in general, so I, I'm really sorry, I don't want to offend anybody, but from what I understand, Christianity and those beliefs of the church would have been very incompatible with biology and chemistry because everything was God's design, right? Everything is just God created this and they're And how do things work? It doesn't matter how things work, because God created them to work in whatever way. And so I can see that being kind of very strange, almost, that you would have an interest in both of those things. Arpita: 11:17 Yeah, certainly. Um, so like, people were curious, but a lot of it, just like you said, was very focused on Design and intelligent design and creationism and so you have to sort of reconcile the two but that is really good foreshadowing for some of Buckland's thoughts that he thinks about later. So very good, very good guesswork. Aarati: 11:36 Awesome. Arpita: 11:36 Um, so okay, so he is starting to take, like, just like sit in on some of his colleagues lectures. He becomes a priest, and he still, keeps his hobby of looking for fossils and stones. Whenever he had breaks from teaching, he would go to the country, in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. And he had his favorite horse. She was a black mare, and they went on all these adventures together. Aarati: 12:02 Aw, that's so cute. Arpita: 12:02 And so he spent, I know, so cute. He spent all this time exploring quarries and mineral deposits, and so then when the professor of mineralogy at Oxford retired, he was asked to be the successor. Um, and I had to look this up because mineralogy is really specific. It's not actually geology. It's very chemistry focused, and it's really just the study of chemical and physical structures of minerals and crystals. Um, so it's not. You know, I had to sort of think about that too, because it's like quite literally just minerals. It doesn't really expand into geology and like other domains, but Buckland had these interests, so he started incorporating geology and paleontology into his lectures, even though paleontology wasn't quite yet a thing. He like incorporated his own personal interests into his lectures. Aarati: 12:53 Into his theology lectures. Arpita: 12:55 Sorry, no, now he's teaching mineralogy. Aarati: 12:57 Oh, now he's teaching mineralogy. Arpita: 12:58 Because this guy retired. And so he's teaching mineralogy, but he keeps his geology appointment. So he's now like in a more official capacity giving these lectures. Aarati: 13:06 Wow. All right. Arpita: 13:08 And this is kind of where we get to see a little bit of his personality. His lectures were very popular. They were very well attended by students, but also other university members. And there's a lot of records of his lectures that sound kind of chaotic. Um, but maybe also lively. He would show up with specimens from his personal collection and he would do maps and diagrams. And to your point, nobody Oxford was required to study natural science. And it wasn't really a really popular thing. This wasn't a thing people did. So his goal was to make the lectures like fun so that students would show up, which sounds pretty Yeah. Yeah. Par for the course for college classes. I'm like nothing has really changed in 300 years. Aarati: 13:52 Yeah that's still true like the classes that I loved attending most were the classes where the Professor actually made an effort to engage by bringing in things or showing us things, and not the lectures where people just kind of talked at you for an hour. That was so boring. Arpita: 14:11 Definitely. Aarati: 14:12 And it was so hard to pay attention, so I can totally see. And so sounds like he was that guy. Arpita: 14:18 It sounds like he was exactly that guy. He, um, took it a step further. He was kinda weird. He had a pet bear. Like a bear. And he named it Tiglath Pileser, I don't even know how to say that. Um, and he dressed this bear up in a cap and gown and different outfits, and brought him into class to just like have it be like show and tell, or just like encourage people to like come to class. And I have to say, I'm not super sure if a professor bringing a bear into class would make me more or less excited to go to class. Aarati: 14:51 Like sit in the back. I would sit in the back near the exit. Like, I would want to see the bear, but at the same time have an escape route planned. Arpita: 15:00 A hundred percent. I'm like, what is he gonna do? Aarati: 15:01 Yeah. Arpita: 15:03 And one of his old colleagues actually said that he was a nervous public speaker. And so he didn't feel comfortable in front of an audience until he made them laugh. So he really tried to do that during his lectures, he tried to like, be a little crazy. There's one record where an old student says that he like ran around the room pretending to be all the different types of giant birds whose fossils he found. Um, As an aside, those birds might have been two legged dinosaurs or like bipedal dinosaurs, but yeah, that's just a guess. Um, but he like would run around the room like pretending to be them and like get his students to laugh and like that's how he felt most comfortable around the audience. Aarati: 15:41 That's so funny. Arpita: 15:42 Um, but again, this was Oxford, so like not, this wasn't Widely well received by other professors and more senior members of the university. They thought he was a clown, they thought he was kind of a buffoon, but the students loved it. So, who's to say? Aarati: 15:57 Yeah. I mean, if you're showing up to class and you're learning, you know, like, I would just, I would just put up, like, pull up a stats chart and be like, okay, what's the attendance in your class and what's the attendance in my class. Okay, argument over. Arpita: 16:13 This was like a rate my professor situation. There's probably a method. Aarati: 16:16 Yeah, probably. I mean, if the students all love him, you can't very well fire him, right? Arpita: 16:21 Totally agree. okay. So in addition to all of the work that he's doing in class, he also manages a section of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. And I didn't know what this was, but the Ashmolean is Britain's first public museum and it's still around today. It opened in the 1600s, um, but it at this point in time, it mostly had like antiques and coins and gravings and like a few geological items. And this is like the area that he Managed and he loved to give tours to his students or foreign and domestic dignitaries who come to visit And he added a lot to the museum from his personal collection So he used to go on all these adventures with his horse, this scaled up a little bit, and he began his European tour, which eventually took him to Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France, where he more methodically found Items to add to his very large collection that he would then give to the museum So he started out sort of just like foraging as like a little kid and then he Scaled up to the horse and like went out in the countryside and now he's going on a more deliberate tour To look for some of these items. I know Aarati: 17:31 That's amazing Arpita: 17:33 Okay, so back to oxford He has now become one of the most beloved Mineralogy lecturers. And kind of what you alluded to before, this was an institution that was very closely tied to the Church of England. Um, and the main areas of study were theology, math, astronomy, and like a very small section that was natural sciences. Once he had been giving lectures in mineralogy for a few years, he finally persuaded the institution to give him a formal appointment in geology, and he was the first geology professor at Oxford. So he basically created Aarati: 18:10 Wow. Arpita: 18:11 This department. Aarati: 18:12 Oh my god. Arpita: 18:13 And like, he basically created this like, study, which is very, very cool. Aarati: 18:16 That's amazing. Arpita: 18:17 And so his first order of business as the first geology professor at Oxford, which he then turned into a paper was called"Vindiciae Geoloicae" or"The Connection of Geology with Religion". So this is kind of like your point because a lot of the work that they were doing around this time was so religiously focused. So he was really trying to reconcile what he was learning about the world with what we knew about the Bible and religion. So this is actually really interesting. His goal for this paper,"The Connection of Geology with Religion", was to demonstrate that geology was important to the bigger goals of the university as a religious institution. So he's trying to make the argument here that we have geological evidence for the Great Flood, Aarati: 18:59 Noah's Ark flood? Arpita: 19:02 Noah's ark flood. Yes. And so he's trying to prove that we have evidence on the earth that this actually existed. Aarati: 19:09 So is he doing this? Sorry. I, it sounds almost like he's doing this Toif still justify geology in general as a relevant field do I have that right? It's almost like Geology didn't exist before. Okay. You're the first geology professor, but we're still not really convinced Geology is a thing or should be a thing. And so this first paper is almost like well Here's why it should be a thing because it's not flying in the face of the bible. It's actually complimentary to it and therefore that's why we should be studying geology Arpita: 19:46 I'm not entirely sure but I think that's probably not very far off. I think it was probably more like he had a specific worldview that was taught to him and he was trying to things that he found into his current framework. So I don't know if it makes sense. necessarily him pushing back as much as it was him trying to fit in what he was learning into his existing framework. If that makes sense. Aarati: 20:11 Or not necessarily pushing back, but just justifying or like, you know, kind of, I still believe in the Bible. I still believe in, you know, um, this religion and everything. But geology is still something that we need to study. Arpita: 20:25 I totally agree. Yeah. I think, I think that's definitely right. And I think this becomes a little bit more clear because Some of the points that he includes as evidence for the universal deluge, which is the hypothesis that the word"beginning", quote unquote, as used in Genesis, which is the first book of the Bible, where it talks about how God created the world, um, was an undefined period of time. So basically he's making this argument that when the earth was created to when the first inhabitants or people were formed is not well defined. And so he is still accepting creationism, but he's basically making this argument that there's a period of time that we don't know how long it is between when God actually created the earth and when humans first appeared. So that might've been a long time. That's what he's kind of making the argument for, which is really interesting. Aarati: 21:16 Yeah, that is. Kind of opening that window a little bit. Arpita: 21:20 Yeah, so we get a little bit weird again. And For the next few years, he is really busy developing this theory of the, flood and how he's going to reconcile all the fossils that he finds. Um, so he's in a cave in Yorkshire. It's called Kirkdale Cave. And he finds all of these fossilized bones that include an elephant, and rhinoceros, and hippopotamus, hyenas, tigers, all sorts of things. Aarati: 21:45 Oh, wow. Arpita: 21:46 This is not normal because those animals don't live in Yorkshire, in England. Aarati: 21:51 Yeah. Arpita: 21:52 Um, but until then, people just assumed that anything that they found, all those animals that didn't belong there had died in the flood and they were just carried away from their homes on the water. So the story in the Bible is that Noah took two of every animal, so then assuming that there were The other how many ever that didn't get saved by the Ark. Aarati: 22:14 Right. Arpita: 22:15 They were all washed away and that's how they ended up in these random places. That's how people explain this. Okay. And so he found some hyenas. in this cave. And hyenas don't belong in Yorkshire. Right. And he came to the conclusion that the hyenas lived there before the flood and that the flood covered the bones with mud to help fossilize them. And so he wrote this paper called"An Assemblage of Fossil Teeth and Bones", where he described there was this like feeding frenzy of ancient hyenas that he found at Kirkdale Cave because he found bones with teeth marks in them and then he was able to match up the teeth marks on the bones with the jaws of the hyenas which then he said this probably means that this cave was a hyena den and this was interesting because Previously, they thought that maybe they were like floated there, but then he's making the argument that hyenas might have actually lived in Yorkshire even though they don't live there anymore. So Aarati: 23:18 yeah. Arpita: 23:19 Interesting point that people didn't really believe before. Um, Aarati: 23:23 yeah, Arpita: 23:23 and this is where he becomes a real scientist or not becomes, but this is like a real scientist move. He wanted to confirm what he did and he wanted to confirm that what he saw in the cave was actually what he thought it was, which was a hyena den. So he got a pet hyena. God knows from where, Aarati: 23:37 He got a pet...? This guy with the horse and the bear and now a hyena. Oh my god Arpita: 23:43 He has more but he he gets a pet hyena and then he gave gave it some guinea pigs and just let the hyena eat The guinea pigs and then he studied the remains that the hyena threw up or pooped and then I mean also apparently He did these experiments in his house. So like whatever. I'm not sure. Aarati: 24:01 Oh my god Arpita: 24:02 But then he looked at the bits of hyena puke slash poop and he saw that they matched the remains and the way that they were all broken down that what he found in Kirkdale cave. So. That gave him sort of the confirmation. Those actually were Bits of meat and bones that the hyenas had eaten and then became fossilized Aarati: 24:26 Wow, Arpita: 24:26 It wasn't just happenstance that those bones happened to be there. So that was an interesting experiment that he did Aarati: 24:32 Incredible. Arpita: 24:33 The same year He discovered an ancient human skeleton at a different cave in southern Wales. It's called Paviland Cave And he found the remains of a mammoth and a human skeleton and they were both covered in like this red clay dirt that was very common for that part of Wales. And when he found the skeleton, he initially, and it was correct that he thought it was a male, but then he later went back on this and thought that it was a female and also he wrote this, um, and it was maybe a joke. He said that this woman was a witch. Um, because humans and mammoths were not thought to have lived at the same time. So he thought maybe she was a witch. Aarati: 25:14 And that she had conjured a mammoth? Or, like, what? Arpita: 25:18 Maybe? I don't know. Aarati: 25:21 Okay. Arpita: 25:22 All the stuff I was reading makes it seem like he's kind of weird, but also like he's kind of a jokester, like I think he kind of intentionally enjoyed messing with people, like I think that was part of the bear prank and gimmick and I think he enjoyed,, theatrics a little bit. It seems like he was in it for shock value Aarati: 25:41 That's so funny because I imagine, yeah, it's such a contrast because I imagine, like, the clergy as being very, like, Stiff and very formal. And then professors in science being very stiff and formal. And he's Arpita: 25:53 especially back then, Aarati: 25:54 and everyone is telling him you need to be serious about this. And he's like, Arpita: 25:58 he's just not Aarati: 25:59 why? Arpita: 26:00 And he's just not. Aarati: 26:00 Yeah, he's just not Arpita: 26:02 And this is where we get kind of the cool part. So around the same time, he finds this collection of enormous bones in Stonesfield which he thought were from a giant lizard. And so he calls it"megalosaurus" which means giant lizard. Aarati: 26:16 Okay. Arpita: 26:16 And he wasn't really sure how this fit into his theory of the flood, and explaining that, so he keeps it to himself. Aarati: 26:24 Because we don't have a megalosaurus today, or there are no megalosauruses. Arpita: 26:30 Right. So he finds it, but I think it kind of seems like he thought that he either needed more evidence, or that he wasn't sure how people would react to it. So there is a record that around like 1820, that he finds it, but then doesn't really tell anybody about it until much later. Aarati: 26:48 Okay. Was it there not a possibility that Noah might have just, like, not had a megalosaurus on his ark for some reason? Arpita: 26:56 That's a good question. I feel like I've read things before about, like, did Noah put dinosaurs on the ark? Aarati: 27:02 Were people making that argument that, well, I mean, maybe they didn't know that dinosaurs existed, um, but I feel like I've heard that argument before that. You know dinosaurs don't exist today because Noah didn't put them on his ark I feel like i've heard that people who are like die hard against evolution Arpita: 27:23 Yeah, like just creationists. Yeah. Aarati: 27:25 Yeah, they just believe that the the things that don't exist today that did exist before are were lost in the flood and they just didn't get put on Noah's Ark for whatever reason. Arpita: 27:34 I feel like they probably hadn't gotten quite that far, considering this was like maybe like one of the first whispers of it, but I, yeah, that seems like something they probably would have thought given the rest of this. So by 1823, his account of the skeleton, um, that was his big finding, he expanded that into a full book on cavern research. And he called it Reliquiædiluvianæ. It's in Latin. I'm probably butchering that. But basically, he's making observations of the Great Flood or the Great Deluge, and he argued that all the remains of animals that he found in caves are clues to what the Earth looked like before the Great Flood and what happened in Genesis. And this book became so popular that people started to recognize him as like a real thought leader in geology. And I think people really liked that he was able to confirm that. What happened in the flood and what happened in the Bible has like real evidence. I think people really liked that. And so this became hugely popular and I think kind of what you were saying earlier I think it really gives like credence and value to what Geology was and how it was useful. I think people were like, oh, this is really cool because now we have something to back up what we already kind of knew was true in the Bible. Aarati: 28:59 And that's so interesting because like today I feel like science and religion are often put on opposing sides and he's kind of bringing it together and saying that science is confirming the bible and what we believe so that's super interesting. Arpita: 29:15 Yeah, really interesting. In 1824, he becomes the president of the Geological Society. So this is a new society. Now geology is being accepted as a real study and he is the president. And now that he has the status as a president, it's the first meeting as president where he finally announces the discovery that he made at Stonesfield of the Megalosaurus. So he writes this paper on a discovery, which has been published, which is the full account of then. what we now know as dinosaurs. And so even though he's made this crazy discovery, like amazing discovery that changes the scope of modern geology and paleontology, it's not really clear whether he actually understood what it was that he found. I think he thought he found this like really cool and rare thing, but it's not really clear based on his journal entries, whether he figured out that he had this like ancient. reptilian fossil on his hands. I think he thought he just had this crazy thing that was pretty cool and then he was telling people about it. Aarati: 30:18 Okay, so he didn't really understand. I mean, Arpita: 30:22 it kind of makes sense. Aarati: 30:23 It, it does because that, that even still happens today that people don't understand sometimes the gravity of what they discover until Other people weigh in and start using it for whatever purpose. Arpita: 30:35 And he also, like, didn't really have a framework for what to put this in, right? It's like, they, dinosaurs weren't walking around. So he wasn't really sure what it was that he'd found. He knew that mammoths had existed, but it clearly wasn't a mammoth. It definitely had more of a lizard structure. So he didn't have a way to explain what he'd found. So it really just seems like an account. Like a very objective, like, here's what I found, here's where it was. But not so much meaning, which is kind of interesting. So at this point he's in his 40s and in 1825 He finally decides he's gonna settle down. He gets married to a 28 year old woman Her name is Mary Morland, and she's from Oxfordshire Mary and William go on a 10 month honeymoon and they visit other scientists And they explore caves and fossils, um, and it really seems like Mary was the perfect partner for him because she was really happy to go on these adventures. Aarati: 31:30 That's amazing. Arpita: 31:30 And, I know, that's so lucky. And in Mary's journals, she said that she stayed up all night, every night, to write down his notes for the day that he was dictating. Aarati: 31:41 Oh, that's so nice. That's amazing. Arpita: 31:43 I know. She's like, actually seems like an angel. Aarati: 31:46 And he has a bear. Arpita: 31:49 Yeah, I don't know what happened to the bear. The bear doesn't like, make an appearance again until Aarati: 31:52 Or a hyena. Like, I love it. Yeah. That's the guy for me. Can you imagine? Mom, dad. I found this guy. Arpita: 32:04 I met this guy. Aarati: 32:06 Yeah. Oh my god. Arpita: 32:10 She really seems like an angel. Apparently he liked to work really late at night. And she seemed like she was down to work late at night also. And she was very accomplished in her own right. She was an illustrator and she had contributed to other scientists work. work. So this wasn't like photography wasn't as common in scientific work. So people were illustrating all of their findings. And so she was doing illustrations for other people. Um, and so she illustrated all the fossils and artifacts they found together and labeled all the specimens. Um, and it seems like they both really had this shared passion for. Geology, and they went on this honeymoon tour to like, study different Geological locations, so. Nice. Definitely well matched. Kind of insane, but well matched. Very nice. Aarati: 32:52 I love that, and I love that we have like, one of the original science illustrators here. Arpita: 32:58 Yeah! Aarati: 32:59 That's so cool. Arpita: 33:01 So, Mary and William, they had a great relationship, and they also had a really large family. They had nine kids, and seven of them survived to adulthood. Their eldest son, Frank, becomes important later, but he carries on the family business and he also becomes a geologist. Aarati: 33:16 Nice. Arpita: 33:17 Now we're in 1836. Fast forward a few more years, and he publishes another book, and it's called the"Bridgewater Treatise", and he claims that there's nothing in the Bible to show that the earth was millions of years old. So he didn't have a literal interpretation of Genesis, which we hear about earlier, right? Because he thinks that there might be a gap between the creation of earth and when the first humans arrive. So, Yeah, but he also doesn't think evolution was real and Charles Darwin was actually a contemporary of his they were kind of around the same time So this new book, the Bridgewater Treatise, looks at mineral deposits and fossils and plants. And he's trying to show that there was, using all of this, that it was evidence that there was an intelligent creator. And so that's the whole point of this book, is that he's showing that. The Earth isn't necessarily millions of years old, but he is trying to explain that there's this gap in time between when the Earth was intelligently created, all this other stuff happened, and then humans appeared. Aarati: 34:23 Okay, so, yeah, so it's kind of directly against almost what Darwin was trying to say, like, I can see how that would be a groundbreaking kind of concept that people had not thought of before at the same time. Arpita: 34:39 Right, exactly. And here's kind of where he's basically trying to do exactly what you said, because geology was So new and his books were selling well, and so he's not trying to rock the boat too much So he's trying to find a way to make some of these new findings that he's making like this Megalosaurus The skeleton all these things to be palatable to the masses and most people were very deeply religious they were all very closely tied with the church and so he wrote a lot about creation But he really tries to fit geology into this framework so that people will be accepting of it Aarati: 35:15 Yeah, it sounds like he's sort of trying to thread the line But at the same time he does believe in it because you know, yeah, like he's not it's not like he's trying to Introduce a new topic, but more of that he's, you know, trying to fit what he's finding out and discovering into what he also already believes and reconcile the two. He's at least not expanding all the way to the Bible is wrong. He's like, no, no, the Bible still, still has to be correct. Arpita: 35:48 Yeah, totally. That's exactly right. And this line of thought really continues to grow because he's becomes this like really respected scientist at Oxford. And he discovers this new explanation for some of the phenomena that he'd previously attributed to the Great Flood. So he had seen these scratches and markings in sandstone and on the sides of mountains and he thought it was because of the flood. Around 1838, he goes to Switzerland to meet this biologist. Swiss biologist and geologist. His name is Louis Agassiz and Agassiz has found some scratchings and markings that sound really similar to what Buckland has found. So they meet up to try to talk about this together. Aarati: 36:36 Okay. Arpita: 36:37 Agassiz says that he thinks it's because this whole land was frozen and that there was a big glacier and that's what's kind of cut into the side of the mountain. Buckland's like, I don't know about that. I don't know about it being frozen. I think that it was probably just the flood. But then he realizes how similar these two are. Switzerland. Actually has a lot of ice, so he has a way to explain this. Aarati: 37:03 Yeah. And so, this was the first time that there were some scientists who were theorizing that a large part of the European continent had been one large glacier during the last Ice Age. Oh, wow. Wow. Arpita: 37:16 Which is really interesting. Aarati: 37:16 Yeah. Arpita: 37:17 So he sees these scratches, thinks it's, thought it was the flood, but then is convinced by another scientist that it might not have been. Aarati: 37:23 Wow. Arpita: 37:23 So it's the first time that glaciers and the ice age were sort of being explored. Aarati: 37:28 Oh wow. That's super interesting. Arpita: 37:30 So the two of them together, Agassiz and Buckland, come to Britain. And they come in front of the Royal Academy, where Buckland is the president, and they are presenting their findings. They made this argument, they presented illustrations, they were like, look, this was probably all ice. This was frozen. And people were not into it. People were not into the fact that the flood never happened. They weren't into this new theory because it's basically saying that all these things that we found are not because of the flood, it's because of ice, which doesn't fit in with the way they're thinking about creationism. So yeah, it didn't go well. That being said, it doesn't seem like they really back down. It does seem like they maintain their theory, but it just wasn't well accepted. So I think kind of what you're saying before of they're trying to toe this line between Showing what they've found, but also making sure that it fits into what people are already thinking, I think is something that they were having a hard time doing. Aarati: 38:27 Yeah, cause that, it's hard when you find something that completely flies in the face of everything you believe, or everything that everyone believes, and everyone's like, well we don't believe you, and you're like, well, here's the evidence right here, I'm showing it to you, I don't know how to explain it, but clearly something is happening and we need to change the way we're thinking about this. It's really hard. Like. Arpita: 38:53 Really hard. Yeah. You're asking people to like give up their worldview, which is really difficult. Aarati: 38:57 Yeah. And even on a smaller scale, like I had that happen once, um, when I was in grad school, I just found something that no one was really expecting. We weren't really looking for it and it just kind of popped up in one of my experiments and we were all like. Huh, I don't know how to explain that. I don't know what, what that's doing there. I don't know what that means. Um, we'll think about it later. Like, what's kind of the Arpita: 39:23 Yeah, that's basically exactly what he did. It feels like it was definitely a problem for so many different scientists, like across time. But I agree with you that it's like, he's trying to also make this palatable. So As we mentioned, he's a scientist, but he's also really eccentric, and as a scientist, he was trying to explore and better understand the world. And so one of the ways he decided to do this, questionable, was to try to eat as many types of animal as he could get his hands on. So he and his son, Frank, embarked on this journey. Aarati: 39:57 Okay. Arpita: 39:58 Yeah, this started out innocent. So at first they um, cooked mice. Aarati: 40:03 Why are they eating, what was the connection between eating animals and proving his theory? Arpita: 40:08 Oh no, there's no connection. He just wants to, he's in one of the quotes says that he wants to better understand the natural world. Aarati: 40:15 Ah, okay. So this is just... Arpita: 40:17 no connection. Aarati: 40:18 ...part of his... Arpita: 40:19 Nothing to do with the flood. Aarati: 40:19 Just part of his weirdness. Okay, great. Arpita: 40:24 So he started out. Kind of innocent. So he, they cooked mice and they put the mice on toast, but then This got kind of concerning. This list grows to include Panther, Rhino, Elephant, Elephant Trunks, Earwig, Slugs, Hedgehogs, Puppies. Aarati: 40:40 What? No! Not the puppies! Arpita: 40:41 I know. It's like, it's really concerning. Aarati: 40:45 Oh my god. Arpita: 40:46 There's one biographer, his name is Alan Chapman, who, uh, this is questionable, but he tries to paint this in a better light and says that Buckland might have had a sane reason for doing this. Most of his life, in early 1800s in Britain, there was this huge economic divide and a lot of poor people were starving. And so, biographer claims that he was doing this as a quote unquote experiment to give poor people a better idea of other people. sources of protein. But like, are they eating panthers? Like, that was just because he wanted to. Like, that's not real. Aarati: 41:22 That's not, yeah, that's not a thing. He's, yeah, he's just, Arpita: 41:25 I think that's a little generous of this biographer. Yeah. Um, the interest in eating strange things, gets out of hand. So he is out dining with Lord Harcourt in France, and he was shown this silver locket. that had something inside of it, and it looked like a pumice stone. And then he, just unprompted, takes the stone and puts it in his mouth. Maybe it was because he wanted to find out what kind of stone it was. But then he just swallowed it. And then was later told it was the mummified heart of Louis XIV. And it was taken from the royal tomb of a member of the Harcourt family. Aarati: 42:02 Oh my god. Arpita: 42:04 Quote, I have eaten many strange things, but I've never eaten the heart of a king before. So I think that, I think he's just weird. Aarati: 42:10 Oh my God. Arpita: 42:10 I think he, wants to try things. He's not, I don't think it was'cause of the poor people. Aarati: 42:15 I, yeah, but I mean, it was bad enough when he thought that it was a stone. I was like, what are you hoping to gain out of this? Like minerals or something like what's in a stone? And then it turns out to be a mummified heart. Like what? Arpita: 42:26 It was a mummified heart. Yeah. Aarati: 42:28 That's, oh my God. Arpita: 42:29 Pretty effed up for sure. Aarati: 42:31 Yeah, I feel like this is one of those, like, fear factor things, you know? Arpita: 42:34 Definitely, definitely. One of the sources, this is not a reliable source that I will not cite, but this is what did show up on Ripley's Believe It or Not as, like, someone who did some weird things, so. Aarati: 42:45 Okay. It's just beyond, like, I've, heard of people trying out different sources of protein and stuff, even today people are, like, you know, trying to push for crickets being a, normal source of protein and this stuff. But this is, this is a whole other level, Arpita: 43:00 That's going to be a no for me. Yeah. Aarati: 43:04 I like to pull the, I'm a vegetarian card. I'm sorry. Arpita: 43:07 Right. Same. Aarati: 43:08 Yeah. We're both vegetarians. It's a great excuse. Arpita: 43:12 Just to round out his eccentricities, um, and again, Mary is for sure a saint because he kept throughout the years a collection of pets that include snakes, eagles, monkeys, and as we mentioned, a hyena and a bear. So, I mean, I don't know if I would expect very much else. Aarati: 43:27 They have an entire zoo. Okay. Arpita: 43:29 Yeah, basically. Getting to the end of his life, his final years were a little bit rough, or towards the end of 1849, he got really sick, and it was probably dementia, and he was told to move to the countryside for his health. Um, he was lucid and kind of in and out, but he didn't really produce very much work, and he was in bad health for about seven years before he finally died in 1856. But, ever the prankster. Weird dude. Before he died, he picked out the plot for his grave where he wanted to be buried and during his funeral, grave diggers found that his gravesite had a thick layer of Jurassic limestone just inches before the surface and it was They were so thick and so tough that they had to blast it out of the way using explosives in order to bury him. I actually looked this up to see if they use dynamite but that wasn't invented until about 10 years later. It wasn't dynamite. Aarati: 44:26 Okay. But it's nice harken back to episode 1. Arpita: 44:31 Yeah, nice little call back. Aarati: 44:32 Yeah. Arpita: 44:33 But it does seem like he definitely did this on purpose just to, like, Aarati: 44:38 so he, like, got people to, like, put limestone Did he get people to put limestone there? Or did he, like, pick a plot knowing that there was limestone there? Arpita: 44:47 He probably, like, put it there just to, like Aarati: 44:49 He Somehow he got people to it there as a joke. Arpita: 44:52 I guess. Aarati: 44:52 Oh my god. Arpita: 44:54 But just one final inconvenience and weird thing that he did. Aarati: 44:57 That's crazy. It's so funny. Arpita: 45:00 But yeah, in hindsight, just like a lot of history, just because of his influence and who he was and who his family was and his position in the church. He was just considered eccentric and not really like a raging lunatic. Yeah. This was kind of met with probably a little bit more acceptance, like a lot of things that he said then. There would have been if he hadn't been this high standing member of the clergy and the church, but he made some really Important discoveries and he really encouraged the growth of this important field of geology and paleontology And even though he was, you know, this member of the clergy he really believed that exploring the earth that's important to understanding like how we view the world as a whole. Which I think still remains true today, so. Aarati: 45:46 That's amazing. Arpita: 45:47 was a weird but interesting dude. Aarati: 45:48 Yeah, so the megalosaurus that he discovered, are megalosauruses a type of dinosaur, or did he discover, like, a triceratops or something, and he called it a megalosaurus, but now we call it a triceratops, or whatever? Arpita: 46:03 Really good question. I don't know what it actually ended up being. I think his, like, tagline, his, one liner is the man who discovered dinosaurs. And that's technically true. He is the first recorded person to discover this megalosaurus. And actually, we don't call anything a megalosaurus right now because that directly translates to big Lizard, and I don't think any of the dinosaurs are named that, but he doesn't really do very much with this discovery, like there, it doesn't actually pan out into very much else, um, but he is, I think the credit still goes to him as someone, the first person who published on this, Aarati: 46:38 And I mean, like, that, that makes sense, because probably at the time his hands were also tied by religion and his own beliefs, too, so I can, I can totally see that, that until other people make more discoveries and they're like, oh, this is a lot like that Megalosaurus thing that William Buckland figured out, Arpita: 46:55 and I think it's, I think it's what we said earlier too, which is basically this idea that he didn't really know what to do with this, right? He didn't know where to put this in his timeline, or where to put this in his other lines of research, like the glaciers, and the flood, and creation, and genesis, like, this didn't really quite fit in. So, he made this discovery, but it's a little bit of a standalone. Mm hmm. Relative to the rest of his other work. Okay. So his big takeaway is really the man who discovered dinosaurs. But I would say having done this like deeper dive on him that that's really. Just like a one off almost. Aarati: 47:29 Yeah. Arpita: 47:29 And that he actually had so much more in terms of the study of geology as a whole. Aarati: 47:34 He should be known as the father of geology and the father of paleontology rather than, yeah, but dinosaurs are catchy. So that's why. Arpita: 47:43 They are catchy. That's why I picked him. So Aarati: 47:46 Yeah, now I have to go watch Jurassic Park. Have a new found appreciation I haven't watched it in such a long time, so it'll be kind of like, new for me. But that was awesome! Great story! Arpita: 47:58 Thanks for listening. Aarati: 47:59 And thank you all for listening Arpita: 48:02 Reach out to us at And you can find our future episodes on Spotify, Apple Music, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Sources for this Epsiode

1. "William Buckland: British Geologist". Britannica

2. "William Buckland". Oxford university Museum of Natural History.

3. "William Buckland" Westminster Abbey.

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