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Open House

24 February 2024
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Event type:
Open day
Organised by:
Geological Society Events, Megalosaurus Month
Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG
Event status:

Join us for our open house event celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first scientific description of a non-avian dinosaur, the Megalosaurus, by William Buckland (1784-1856), Professor of Geology at Oxford University. His paper 'Notice on the Megalosaurus or great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield' was presented at a meeting of the Geological Society on 20 February 1824. 

Megalosaurus Month Open House: Saturday 24 February from 10am until 4.30pm.

Event Details

William Buckland was an avid collector of fossils and other geological specimens, which he used in support of his teaching at Oxford. Amongst one collection he acquired from a slate quarry in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, he noticed some bones that aroused his curiosity – particularly a partial jaw bone.   

In 1818, Buckland showed them to French comparative anatomist, Georges Cuvier, who recognised similarities with living lizards. Consequently, Buckland chose the name Megalosaurus, meaning ‘great lizard’. (The term ‘dinosaur’ was not coined until 1842 by Richard Owen.) Despite mistakes in Buckland’s initial description, the creature retains the name he gave it. It is now known as 'Megalosaurus bucklandii'. 

Upon becoming the eighth President of the Geological Society in 1824 (he would serve again between 1839-41), Buckland chose his first meeting as holder of the office to formally announce his discovery to the world, thereby creating the enduring connection between himself, the dinosaur, and the Geological Society! 

The world's oldest geological society was inaugurated on Friday 13 November 1807, at a dinner held at the Freemasons Tavern, Covent Garden. The Society had several homes in its first few decades, before settling in Somerset House (alongside many of the other London learned societies) in 1828, and finally moving to New Burlington House in 1874.  

2024 marks our 150th anniversary of being in New Burlington House.

Our Home: Burlington House

The original Burlington House was built by Sir John Denham for his new bride in 1665, but after her early death it was sold to Richard Boyle, first Earl of Burlington, in 1668. Between 1715-1722, the third Earl had the house reconstructed in the Palladian style, which we see today. The property then passed to the Cavendish family in the mid-18th century, and was eventually purchased by the Government in 1854, with the express purpose of housing the learned societies close to the Royal Academy to encourage interchange between the arts and sciences. 

Additional accommodation was provided in the West and East wings and gateway blocks enclosing the courtyard, which were completed to the designs of architects Charles Barry and Robert Richardson Banks between 1869-1873. The exterior of the Grade II* listed building is of Portland Stone (Upper Jurassic). 

The Society's apartments have undergone several refurbishments over the years, most recently from 2007-2013.

Our Dinosaur: Megalosaurus

Standing at over two metres tall and approximately seven metres long, the replica is a life-sized model of an adult Megalosaurus – or rather a reconstruction of what palaeontologists think it would have looked like, as a complete skeleton has not been found. 

In the Lower Library and the Lyell Room, you will find several exhibits that complement the replica and tell the story of the dinosaur’s discovery. They include the cast of the jaw made by Buckland himself, and which was once part of the Society’s object collections, along with some of the original fossils excavated from the quarry in Stonesfield. 

In the Gertrude Elles room, immediately adjacent to the Upper Library, you will find a recreation of Buckland’s teaching room in the old Ashmolean Museum.  It is based on a lithograph, which Buckland himself commissioned.  

Although the artist Nathaniel Whittock (1791-1860) used quite a bit of artistic license in the print, many of the specimens and images are recognisable and we have recreated them as closely as possible.  For others, we have included some of Buckland’s own geological works of the period.


Visitors are welcome to photograph inside the Society's apartments for their own personal use. No flash photography or tripods please.

Family-Friendly Activities 

We will be running educational activities throughout the day – just pop in!


This event is open to all. Registration is not required, just turn up on the day!

Geolsoc Contact

Conference Office

The Geological Society
Burlington House