Alan J. Charig

Alan J. Charig

Infobox Person
name = Alan Charig
birth_date = birth date|1927|7|1|df=y
birth_place = England
death_date = death date and age|1997|7|15|1927|7|1|df=y
death_place = England

Alan Jack Charig (1 July 1927 - 15 July 1997) was an English palaeontologist and writer who popularised his subject on television and in books at the start of the wave of interest in dinosaurs in the 1970s.

Charig was, though, first and foremost a research scientist in the Department of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum, London. There he worked on dinosaurs and their immediate Triassic ancestors, but also studied creatures as varied as limbless amphisbaenians (worm-lizards) and a Fijian gastropod, Thatcheria.


Charig was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School and Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge. His university education was interrupted by National Service in the Royal Armoured Corps, first as a tank driver and, after volunteering for an Inter-Services Russian language course at Cambridge, as a Russian interpreter in Germany, from 1946 to 1948.

On graduating in Zoology in 1951, Charig took a doctorate at Cambridge, supervised by the late F R Parrington. His subject was Triassic archosaurs of Tanganyika.

After a short spell as Lecturer in Zoology in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), in 1957 Charig took up a post in Invertebrate Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum. He remained at the museum for the rest of his career, becoming Curator of Fossil Reptiles and Birds in 1961, and Principal Scientific Officer in 1964.

Life at the museum suited Charig well. He enjoyed meeting the public, especially children, and was an entertaining lecturer.

He wrote and presented a 10-part series on vertebrate palaeontology, Before the Ark (1974) on BBC television, and wrote the accompanying book. His second semi-popular book, A New Look at the Dinosaurs (1979), had an even greater impact and was translated into several languages.

Charig also planned exhibitions, notably in the museum's Fossil Mammal Gallery between 1970 and 1988. He retained his fluency in Russian from his Army days and gave classes in conversational Russian for his colleagues.

Despite long periods of poor health, Charig made many original scholarly contributions to dinosaur science, including an hypothesis to explain the unusual pelvic structure in plant-eating dinosaurs, which he referred to informally as "the femur-knocking-on-the-pubis problem".

In the mid-1980s, he found himself defending the museum's most famous fossil, the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, the authenticity of which was challenged by Sir Fred Hoyle. Charig responded with a characteristically robust refutation.

Charig loved travel; he climbed mountains in Peru and visited Timbuktu in a Morris Minor. He led museum expeditions to Zambia and Tanzania in 1963, to Lesotho in 1966 (discovering the oldest articulated fossil mammal skeleton in Early Jurassic rocks), and in 1978 to the Early Cretaceous of Queensland (turning up one of the earliest herrings).

A British Council scheme afforded a privileged visit to China, in 1979. It proved the forerunner of a joint field expedition to Sichuan in 1982 by the museum and the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Beijing.

This trip was the most fascinating of his many foreign experiences. However, the next year, a rather less exotic location - a brick-pit near Ockley, in Surrey, England - provided Charig with the most exciting research project of his career. He excavated Baryonyx walkeri, a remarkable fish-eating dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period.

After his retirement in 1987, Charig continued his research work at the Natural History Museum. At this period he also took up a two-month research fellowship awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. In 1995, he went on an arduous tour of fossil sites throughout Argentina.

His final scientific publication, a monograph on the Surrey dinosaur Baryonyx, of which he was the senior author, was published at the end of June 1997. At the time of his death, two weeks later, Charig was working on several long-standing projects, notably the description of one of the earliest plant-eating dinosaurs, Scelidosaurus, from Dorset, England.

Alan Charig's wife, Marianne Charig, died in 1987. They had three children, Nicola Norton, a dentist, Mark Charig, a radiologist and Francis Charig, a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer and seven grandchildren, Matthew, Richard and Charlie Norton, Sarah, Anna, Jack and Robert Charig.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Alan Charig — Alan Jack Charig (* 1. Juli 1927 in London; † 15. Juli 1997 ebenda) war ein britischer Paläontologe. 1927 geboren, besuchte er die Haberdashers’ Aske’s School in Hampstead, später das Emmanuel College in Cambridge. Während seiner Studien wurde er …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charig — ist der Name folgender Personen: Alan Jack Charig (1927–1997), britischer Paläontologe Julius Charig (* 1897; für tot erklärt zum 29. März 1943), deutscher Jurist Mark Charig (* 1944), britischer Jazz und Improvisationsmusiker …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alan Skidmore — (né en 1942) est un saxophoniste ténor anglais qui a joué avec de nombreux musiciens de jazz et de blues dont John Mayall, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame, Soft Machine et l orchestre de Van Morrison. Lien externe (en)… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Francis Charig — (born November 23 1960 in Hurst Green, Oxted, England) is the British Chief Executive Officer and founder of Antix Labs and is also a board director of Baillie Gifford Shin Nippon plc, a Japan focussed investment fund. He was educated at Whitgift …   Wikipedia

  • Marc Charig — (né le 22 février 1944 à Londres) est un trompettiste britannique. Il est particulièrement actif de la fin des années 1960 au début des années 1970, période durant laquelle il participe au groupe de Long John Baldry, à Bluesology, Soft… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Baryonyx — Baryonyx, Rekonstruktion Zeitraum Unterkreide (Valanginium bis Aptium) 140,2 bis 112 Mio. Jahre Fundorte Europa (Eng …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Baryonyx — Baryonyx …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Spinosauridae — Spinosauridae …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Spinosauridé — Spinosauridae Spinosauridae …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Spinosauridés — Spinosauridae Spinosauridae …   Wikipédia en Français

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.