Harry Seeley

Harry Govier Seeley (18 February 1839 – 8 January 1909) was a British paleontologist.[1][2]

Harry Seeley
Harry Seeley
Born18 February 1839
London, UK
Died8 January 1909 (aged 69)
Kensington, London, UK
AwardsLyell Medal (1885)
Scientific career


Seeley was born in London, the son of Richard Hovill Seeley, goldsmith, and his second wife Mary Govier. He attended classes at the Royal School of Mines, Kensington before becoming an assistant to Adam Sedgwick at the Woodwardian Museum, Cambridge, from 1859. He matriculated as a student at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1863.[3] He turned down positions both with the British Museum and the Geological Survey of Britain to work on his own. Late in his career he accepted a position as Professor of Geology at King's College, Cambridge and Bedford College (London) (1876). He was later Lecturer on Geology and Physiology at Dulwich College and Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at King's College London (1896–1905).

He died in Kensington, London and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery. He had married in 1872 Eleanora Jane, daughter of William Mitchell of Bath. Their daughter Maude married Arthur Smith Woodward, FRS.


Harry Seeley Grave Brookwood
Seeley's grave in Brookwood Cemetery

Seeley determined that dinosaurs fell into two great groups, the Saurischia and the Ornithischia, based on the nature of their pelvic bones and joints. He published his results in 1888, from a lecture he had delivered the previous year.[4] Paleontologists of his time had been dividing the Dinosauria in various ways, depending on the structure of their feet and the form of their teeth. Seeley's division, however, has stood the test of time, though the birds have subsequently been found to descend, not from the "bird-hipped" Ornithischia, but from the "lizard-hipped" Saurischia. He found the two groups so distinct that he also argued for separate origins: not until the 1980s did new techniques of cladistic analysis show that both groups of dinosaurs really did have common ancestors in the Triassic. Seeley described and named numerous dinosaurs from their fossils in the course of his career.

His popular book on pterosaurs, Dragons of the Air (1901), found that the development of birds and pterosaurs paralleled each other. His belief that they had a common origin has been proved, for both are archosaurs, just not as close as he thought. He upset Richard Owen's characterization of the pterosaurs as cold-blooded, sluggish gliders, and recognized them as warm-blooded active fliers.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1879 for his work on reptiles and dinosaurs,[5] and delivered their Croonian Lecture in 1887.

... he will be best remembered, perhaps, for the wonderful collections he made in the Karoo Beds of South Africa and the resulting exhibition in the Natural History branch of the British Museum of the remarkable skeleton of Pareiasaurus[6] and numerous other Anomodont reptiles ....[7]

- see Alfred Brown


  1. ^ Lydekker, Richard (14 Jan 1909). "Obituary. Prof. H. G. Seeley, F.R.S.". Nature. 79 (2046): 314–315. doi:10.1038/079314b0.
  2. ^ "Seeley, Harry Govier". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1578.
  3. ^ "Seeley, Harry Govier (SLY863HG)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ H. G. Seeley, On the Classification of the Fossil Animals Commonly Named Dinosauria, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1887 43:165–171; doi:10.1098/rspl.1887.0117. See "Paper Dinosaurs" Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine An Exhibition of Original Publications from the Collections of the Linda Hall Library.
  5. ^ "Library and Archive catalogue". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  6. ^ "Plate I. Skeleton of Pareiasaurus Baini, Seeley". Geological Magazine. 32. 1895. doi:10.1017/s0016756800005689.
  7. ^ "Obituary. Professor H. G. Seeley". Geological Magazine. 46: 93–94. 1909. doi:10.1017/s0016756800121697.

External links


Colymbosaurus is a genus of cryptoclidid plesiosaur from the Late Jurassic (Kimmeridgian-Tithonian) of the UK and Svalbard, Norway. There are two currently recognized species, C. megadeirus and C. svalbardensis.


Craterosaurus (meaning krater reptile or bowl reptile) was a genus of stegosaurid dinosaur. It lived during the Early Cretaceous (Valanginian to Barremian stages) around 145-136 million years ago. Its fossils were found in the Woburn Sands Formation of England. Craterosaurus may actually be a junior synonym of Regnosaurus, but only one fossil, a partial vertebra, was recovered.

The type (and only known) species is Craterosaurus pottonensis, described in 1874 by Harry Seeley. The specific name refers to the Potton bonebed. Seeley mistook the fossil, holotype SMC B.28814, for the base of a cranium. Franz Nopcsa in 1912 correctly identified it as the front part of a neural arch. Craterosaurus was placed in Stegosauria by Galton, although subsequent authors did not recognize Craterosaurus as a distinct, valid taxon.


Cryptoclidus ( krip-toh-KLY-dəs) is a genus of plesiosaur reptile from the Middle to Late Jurassic period of England, France, Argentina and Cuba.


Cryptocynodon is an extinct genus of non-mammalian synapsid.


Cumnoria is a genus of herbivorous iguanodontian dinosaur. It was a basal iguanodontian that lived during the Late Jurassic period (Kimmeridgian age) in what is now Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.


Diademodon is an extinct genus of cynodonts. It was about 2 metres (6.6 ft) long. Although Diademodon is the most well accepted name for the genera to date, it was originally named Cynochampsa laniarius by Owen in 1860. The proposed name change occurred in 1982, where Grine defended the name proposed by Harry Seeley: Diademodon tetragonus and to be place in the group Therapsida, which was a group Owen had tiptoed around in his works on paleontology. Though Harry Govier Seeley had named Diademodon in 1894, which was after Owen had dubbed the genus Cynochampsa, Seeley had not realized the two were one and the same as the fossil that Owen named was claimed to have been found in a claystone nodule in the Renosterberg Mountains. A later paleontologist explored the same area where the fossil was claimed to have been found and declared no evidence of Cynognathus fossils.


Dimorphodontia is a group of early "rhamphorhynchoid" pterosaurs named after Dimorphodon, that lived in the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic.

A family, Dimorphodontidae, was named in 1870 by Harry Govier Seeley (as "Dimorphodontae") with Dimorphodon as the only known member. In 2003 David Unwin defined a clade Dimorphodontidae, as the group consisting of the last common ancestor of Dimorphodon macronyx and Peteinosaurus zambellii, and all its descendants. However, later studies found that Dimorphodon may not be closely related to Peteinosaurus, so this definition of Dimorphodontidae would therefore be superfluous. In 2014, Brian Andres and colleagues defined another clade, Dimorphodontia, as a replacement. Dimorphodontia would include all pterosaurs more closely related to Dimorphodon than to Pterodactylus. According to the analysis published by Andres et al., Dimorphodontia is also a small group, including only Dimorphodon and Parapsicephalus.In 2018, a close relative of Dimorphodon was described from the Late Triassic of North America by Britt and colleagues, and was named Caelestiventus. This discovery expanded the geographic, temporal and also the ecological range of dimorphodontians, as it was discovered in the Late Triassic Nugget Sandstone in Utah, which was a desert at the time. Britt and colleagues also redefined Dimorphodontidae as the least inclusive clade containing Dimorphodon macronyx and Caelestiventus hanseni.


Eretmosaurus is an extinct genus of plesiosaur.


Eucercosaurus is the name given to a genus of dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous. It was an ornithopod discovered in England and first described in 1879. The type species, Eucercosaurus tanyspondylus, was described by British paleontologist Harry Seeley in 1879. It is considered a dubious name, and was once considered an ankylosaur.


Kannemeyeria was a large dicynodont of the family Kannemeyeriidae, one of the first representatives of the family, and hence one of the first large herbivores of the Triassic. It lived during the later Early and early Middle part of the Triassic period (from the late Olenekian to the Middle Anisian age).


Mochlodon is a genus of iguanodont dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous.


Neusticosaurus (sometimes misspelled Neuticosaurus) ("swimming lizard"), is an extinct genus of marine reptile belonging to the nothosaur order, from Italy, Switzerland and Germany. At 18 cm (8 in) long, it was one of the smallest nothosaurs. Neusticosaurus probably fed on small fish.


Ornithischia () is an extinct clade of mainly herbivorous dinosaurs characterized by a pelvic structure similar to that of birds. The name Ornithischia, or "bird-hipped", reflects this similarity and is derived from the Greek stem ornith- (ὀρνιθ-), meaning "of a bird", and ischion (ἴσχιον), plural ischia, meaning "hip joint". However, birds are only distantly related to this group as birds are theropod dinosaurs.Ornithischians with well known anatomical adaptations include the ceratopsians or "horn-faced" dinosaurs (e.g. Triceratops), armored dinosaurs (Thyreophora) such as stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, pachycephalosaurids and the ornithopods. There is strong evidence that certain groups of ornithischians lived in herds, often segregated by age group, with juveniles forming their own flocks separate from adults. Some were at least partially covered in filamentous (hair- or feather- like) pelts, and there is much debate over whether these filaments found in specimens of Tianyulong, Psittacosaurus, and Kulindadromeus may have been primitive feathers.


Ornithopsis (meaning "bird-likeness") was a medium-sized Early Cretaceous sauropod dinosaur, from England.


Picrocleidus is an extinct genus of plesiosaur. It is known only from the type species P. beloclis from the Middle Jurassic Oxford Clay Formation (Callovian stage) of the United Kingdom.


Pristerognathus is an extinct genus of therocephalian, known from the late Middle Permian (Capitanian) of South Africa. It lends its name to the Pristerognathus Assemblage Zone of the Beaufort Group of South African geological strata. Pristerognathus was a medium-sized therocephalian with a 25 cm (9.8 in) skull and a total length up to 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in).These animals were roughly dog-sized, and are characterized by long, narrow skulls with large canines. They are likely to have lived in woodlands, and preyed on smaller therapsids and millerettids of the time.Pristerognathus was discovered in 1895 by Seeley. Three species are known: P. baini, P. polyodon and P. vanderbyli. There has also been a fourth species P. minor, but this has been reclassified to Pristerognathoides.


Rhachiocephalus is an extinct genus of dicynodont therapsid.


Rhomaleosaurus (meaning "strong lizard") is an extinct genus of Early Jurassic (Toarcian age, about 183 to 175.6 million years ago) rhomaleosaurid pliosauroid known from Northamptonshire and from Yorkshire of the United Kingdom. It was first named by Harry Seeley in 1874 and the type species is Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni. It was one of the earliest large marine reptile predators which hunted in the seas of Mesozoic era. Its length was about 7 m (23 ft) long. Like other pliosaurs, Rhomaleosaurus fed on ichthyosaurs, ammonites and other plesiosaurs.


Saurischia ( saw-RIS-kee-ə, meaning "reptile-hipped" from the Greek sauros (σαῦρος) meaning 'lizard' and ischion (ἴσχιον) meaning 'hip joint') is one of the two basic divisions of dinosaurs (the other being Ornithischia). ‘Saurischia’ translates to lizard-hipped.

In 1888, Harry Seeley classified dinosaurs into two orders, based on their hip structure, though today most paleontologists classify Saurischia as an unranked clade rather than an order.


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