In 1839, on the basis of a single mysterious fragment of bone from the other side of the world, the great English anatomist Richard Owen reached the conclusion that it came from an unknown gigantic flightless bird. Despite this being shortly before the time of Darwin and the great evolution debate, many initially thought Owen’s claim preposterous.
A huge new bird that couldn’t fly? Like an Ostrich? Ridiculous!
Owen’s piece of bone is the starting point for Richard Wolfe’s fascinating story of scientific intrigue and personality clashes in one of the nineteenth century’s great natural history discoveries.