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Andrew Carnegie and a dinosaur called Dippy

Andrew Carnegie and a dinosaur called Dippy


Dippy and Andrew
Dippy and Andrew

Imagine a world 155 million years ago! In Scotland there had been a rapid rise in the sea level, flooding much of the country. Meat and plant-eating dinosaurs roamed the coast where there was an abundance of sea-life including: ammonites, sea lilies (crinoids) and corals. The USA was much closer to Scotland than it is today.

At this time, in the USA, lived the quintessential gentle giant. A dinosaur measuring 26 meters in length and weighing a whopping 20000kg. This beautiful herbivore ate a diet of leaves from trees and soft plants, its long neck allowing them to reach high to the tastiest leaves or bend down low to drink water. So what does a dinosaur have to do with a town known for its ancient kings and queens?


Reconstruction of Diplodocus carnegii

To understand this, we have to fast forward to 1878. This type of dinosaur was first described as a new type of dinosaur by Professor Othniel C Marsh at Yale University and named Diplodocus. Some 20 years later, whilst working on a railway line in Wyoming, railroad workers unearthed the fossilised bones of a Diplodocus. Newspapers billed the discovery as the ‘most colossal animal ever on Earth’. At this time, Dunfermline’s most famous son, Andrew Carnegie has already been in the USA for 50 years.  He was married to Louise Carnegie (nee Whitfield) and his daughter Margaret had been born the year previously.  Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic contributions had already started by this time. The Dunfermline Carnegie Library was opened in 1883 and was the world’s first Carnegie Library. In Pittsburgh, he also funded the building of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History which opened in 1895.  His vision was that the museum would exhibit the wonders of nature to everyone from mill workers to affluent society members.

Andrew Carnegie had a particular interest in palaeontology.  He funded the excavations in Wyoming, wanting to acquire the bones as a centrepiece for his new museum in Pittsburgh. During the reconstruction of the skeleton at the Carnegie Museum, experts discovered subtle differences from the two other Diplodocus species known at the time, Diplodocus longus and Diplodocus lacustris. The new species was named Diplodocus carnegii in honour of its benefactor.

When King Edward VII saw a sketch of the Diplodocus while visiting Carnegie at his Scottish castle he remarked how much he’d like something similar for the Natural History Museum in London. Carnegie commissioned a replica cast of his dinosaur. The replica of this dinosaur, now nicknamed Dippy, was unveiled to the public on 12 May 1905 in London. There are 10 replicas around the world.

In Dunfermline, there is no better place to learn more about Andrew Carnegie and Dippy than at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum.

Carnegie Birthplace Museum, Dunfermline.


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