“Nation’s favourite dinosaur” makes a return to London

  • June 25, 2022
  • 3 min read
“Nation’s favourite dinosaur” makes a return to London

Dippy, the country’s most famous dinosaur, continues its tour of the UK as it makes a return to London. The dinosaur was the first dinosaur to go on display when it was gifted to the Natural History Museum in 1905. It quickly became a star, capturing hearts and imaginations.

Dippy is a diplodocus, a type of dinosaur that lived in the Jurassic Period, 155-145 million years ago. Its name comes from the Greek for ‘double-beam’ in reference to the bones in its tail. It belonged to the sauropod family, which includes the largest animals ever to walk on earth, including Argentinosaurus and Brachiosaurus. These long-necked behemoths are some of the most recognisable dinosaurs of all.

The specimen that stood at Hintze Hall for all those years is actually a plaster cast. The original was dug up in Wyoming on American Independence Day, 1899.

It became the most famous single dinosaur skeleton on the planet, as casts were donated by Andrew Carnegie, who financed the dig, to many major museums around the world. The original is in Pittsburgh but there have been casts sent to Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Bologna, St Petersburg, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Utah. Of all the casts made, London’s Dippy was the first, and unveiled on the 12th of May, 1905.

“By gifting copies to the heads of state, of seven other countries, as well as the UK,” his great-grandson, William Thomson said in 2019, “Carnegie hoped to demonstrate through mutual interest in scientific discoveries that nations have more in common than what separates them. He used his gifts in an attempt to open interstate dialogue on preserving world peace – a form of Dinosaur diplomacy.”

Dippy left the museum in 2017 to complete a tour of the UK. “Throughout the journey,” the Natural History Museum says, “Dippy witnessed the changing state of nature and how the UK’s biodiversity is in sharp decline. Dippy’s tour also gave us a much-needed reminder of the joy we can find in our local landscapes – from embracing the quiet of a woodland to noticing birdsong in a busy park.”

But it is not the only dinosaur specimen that is known. Chicago is home to Sue, one of the largest and most complete tyrannosaurus fossils ever found. And in Wyoming is Big Al, an allosaurus that was the subject of a Walking with Dinosaurs special on the BBC. This 145-million-year-old carnivore is unique thanks to the many injuries, illnesses, and infections that have been preserved.

Dippy Returns: The Nation’s Favourite Dinosaur runs until 2 January 2023 and free tickets can be booked on the museum’s website. For more information, visit nhm.ac.uk

Image: Ananabanana via Flickr

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