KEY TAKEAWAYS

• A plaster of paris replica of Andrew Carnegie’s most famous discovery, a dinosaur skeleton excavated from a quarry in Wyoming 120 years ago, has been touring the U.K. as part of a three-year tour to end in October 2020

• Housed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the original dinosaur, named Diplodocus carnegii and known colloquially as “Dippy,” is believed to be between 152 and 154 million years old and is the first and most complete skeleton of the species anywhere in the world

Dippy was a sensation when it was first unveiled more than 100 years ago and within 15 years of its discovery, replicas were on display in museums in London, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Bologna, St. Petersburg, Madrid, and Mexico City

At the time, Andrew Carnegie wanted to use Dippy as an example of the world’s shared history to foster greater dialogue among nations, a form of “dinosaur diplomacy”

• The Dippy on Tour exhibition is part of the Forging the Future series commemorating Carnegie’s legacy a century after his death

 

 
An expedition in Wyoming in 1899 funded by Andrew Carnegie yielded the great treasure of fossils from a new long-necked dinosaur species that would be christened Diplodocus carnegii in tribute to the expedition’s benefactor. Today, “Dippy” is one of the crown jewels of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The beloved dinosaur fossil was the first — and still is — the most complete skeleton of the species ever found anywhere in the world. At the time, the discovery caused an absolute sensation with press and public. (Photos: Courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

For the last two years, a symbol of Andrew Carnegie’s audacity has been touring the United Kingdom in the form of a 14-foot-high by 70-foot-long dinosaur skeleton. We owe a great deal of our knowledge of prehistoric creatures to Carnegie and his ambitions. Even more incredible is the role that the legendary fossil came to play in international diplomacy. The story gets to the heart of Carnegie’s desire to spread peace and rid the world of war, or as he called it, “the foulest blot upon our civilization.”

In 1898 after a brontosaurus was discovered in Wyoming, the philanthropist set his sights on getting one for the three-year-old Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. An ardent evolutionist, Carnegie went on to fund paleontology expeditions in the western United States, including one fruitful 1899 dig in a Wyoming quarry that uncovered fossils of a massive new dinosaur species, which the paleontologist John Bell Hatcher named Diplodocus carnegii in honor of the expedition’s sponsor.

Now known as “Dippy,” the specimen crafted from those fossils proved to be incredibly important to science as a holotype — that is, the original specimen on which a species is formally described. The study of dinosaurs was still in its infancy when Dippy was unearthed, but it provided the first real sense of the size and scale of dinosaurs in relation to other animals. Indeed, dinosaurs as a species had only been identified 57 years earlier (in 1842). Dippy would also play a very significant role in the history of both the museum and the city it came to call home.

“Most early discoveries of dinosaurs, which were made primarily in the U.K., France, and Germany, were of isolated bones and teeth and the overall appearance of the animals was usually conjectural or incomplete,” says Paul Barrett, a researcher and specialist in the evolutionary paleobiology of dinosaurs at London’s Natural History Museum. “Dippy was one of the first substantially complete dinosaurs to be found and the first very complete sauropod, so it fed into many ideas about how dinosaurs looked and behaved. Dippy literally gave substance to just how huge these animals could be, and how different they were from living animals.”

Believed to be between 152 and 154 million years old, Dippy remains relevant to this day. “It’s the ‘gold standard,’ the first and still the most complete skeleton of this species ever found anywhere in the world,” says Matt Lamanna, associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. “Because it is the holotype and still the best preserved specimen of its species, dinosaur paleontologists from all over the world still come to our museum to study its bones. Amazingly, 120 years after its discovery, we scientists are still learning important new things about Diplodocus carnegii based on the study of the Dippy specimen.”

Dippy is an enduring embodiment of Carnegie’s legacy and mission. He is a beloved treasure because he connects us vividly to Earth’s distant past. Thanks to Carnegie, millions of people have engaged with Dippy intellectually, in the name of science, and emotionally, in the name of wonder.

— Eric Dorfman, Carnegie Museum of Natural History


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Big Red Dino

Diplodocus carnegii is brought to life in Scotland’s Dunfermline with the help of the community and 35,000 Lego bricks

“This past spring, a six-and-a-half-foot red Lego dinosaur loomed large in the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in the Scottish town of Dunfermline. One might not guess that thousands of hands and minds went into its construction, but this playful interpretation of the beloved Diplodocus carnegii dinosaur represents a grand collaboration, as well as an innovative way to engage visitors in Andrew Carnegie’s life and work.

While London’s Natural History Museum’s full-scale plaster replica of Diplodocus carnegii, the ever-popular “Dippy,” is currently touring the U.K. with great success, Dunfermline community members — perhaps unable to see the skeleton on its recent visit to Glasgow — put together a 35,000-Lego brick version of the famed dinosaur.

Together with representatives from the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, as well as renowned Lego artist Warren Elsmore and his team, visitors young and old built the “big red dino” in the collaborative spirit that was championed by Andrew Carnegie. Lego Dippy is an apt way to celebrate the philanthropist’s legacy today, during the centennial year of his death.

“The interactive build process really brought the community together,” says Nora Rundell, chief executive of the Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Fund Trusts. “The aim of the exhibition in Glasgow and the Lego build in the Birthplace Museum was to allow people to see a Diplodocus take shape while learning about the fascinating story of Carnegie’s use of paleontology as a vehicle for peace diplomacy.”

In Dunfermline, the building of the Lego Dippy sculpture was one of several innovative educational programs designed by the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and the Birthplace Museum to teach not only natural history but structural engineering as well. The program had the added benefit of encouraging collaboration and educating the public at large about Andrew Carnegie’s legacy.

The process reflected “Carnegie’s idea that education should be accessible to all and his belief that working together will help us all to achieve great things,” explains Rundell. Carnegie wisely understood that by being a “shareholder” in a process, participants would value the outcome more.

The Lego build project represents a directional change for the museum. “In the past, the museum has had more of a top-down approach, presenting a ready-made exhibition for visitors to see and enjoy,” says Rundell, “whereas now it is more about joining in and doing things together.”

The Birthplace Museum Dippy exhibit has proven to be one of the most popular — and colorful — parts of the Forging the Future series commemorating the centennial year of Andrew Carnegie’s passing. As a matter of fact, Lego Dippy’s sojourn in Dunfermline was so successful that even after the big red dino was taken down, the Birthplace Museum hosted Bricks 4 Kidz workshops, where children continued using Legos to build models of such favorites as the Stegosaurus and the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. In Dunfermline, dinosaur fever rages on.


 

The discovery and exhibition of Dippy did what Carnegie intended, putting his museum on the map as a major player among American natural history museums. And today, Dippy serves as a beloved mascot for both the museum and the Steel City.

“Dippy is an enduring embodiment of Carnegie’s legacy and mission,” says Eric Dorfman, the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. “He is a beloved treasure because he connects us vividly to Earth’s distant past. Thanks to Carnegie, millions of people have engaged with Dippy intellectually, in the name of science, and emotionally, in the name of wonder.”

But the Dippy story — or impact — doesn’t end there.

Carnegie was so proud of the discovery that he had a large drawing of the dinosaur hung at Skibo Castle, his estate in Scotland. King Edward VII saw the sketch when visiting the American industrialist at Skibo, resulting in Carnegie’s gift of a full-scale plaster replica of the Dippy skeleton to England. When London’s Natural History Museum received their plaster of paris Dippy in 1905, the London papers did not hold back. “Carnegie’s gift to the nation,” declared the Morning Leader, was “the greatest animal that ever lived.”

“Dippy was a sensation when it was revealed in Edwardian London,” says the Natural History Museum’s Barrett. “The British public, indeed the global public, had never seen anything on such a colossal scale before. The presentation was widely covered in the international media, was attended by many members of the U.K. political and scientific elite, and drew huge numbers of spectators to the museum. It was a coup for the museum to get such an impressive gift and was probably the first museum specimen to achieve ‘star’ media status in this way.”

Soon other nations throughout Europe and in Latin America requested copies of their own. “Within 15 years of its discovery, replicas of ‘Dippy’ were on display in museums in London, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Bologna, St. Petersburg, La Plata (near Buenos Aires), and Madrid, and would later be installed elsewhere (for example, in Mexico City, in 1930),” said Lamanna. “As such, very shortly after its discovery, Diplodocus carnegii was effectively marketed to a large number of major cultural centers, and in the process, it became essentially synonymous with the term dinosaur for a great many people in the early 20th century.”

More Than Scientific Discovery

Dippy is not simply a gateway to learning about science and our natural world. As William Thomson, Andrew Carnegie’s great-grandson, pointed out recently, Diplodocus carnegii was seen by his great-grandfather as “a symbol and an opportunity.”

Carnegie’s ambitions in gifting models to world leaders was twofold: to spread the advances that scientists were making in their understanding of the natural world and to celebrate our shared history and findings — both objectives serving in his eyes as a form of diplomacy.

“Carnegie hoped to demonstrate through mutual interest in scientific discoveries that nations have more in common than what separates them,” Thomson said. “He used his gifts in an attempt to open inter-state dialogue on preserving world peace — a form of ‘dinosaur diplomacy’! Replicas of Diplodocus carnegii are still on display in some of the most famous natural history museums in Europe, but sadly, the wellspring of their united history has been largely forgotten.”

Carnegie hoped to demonstrate through mutual interest in scientific discoveries that nations have more in common than what separates them. He used his gifts in an attempt to open inter-state dialogue on preserving world peace — a form of ‘dinosaur diplomacy’!

— William Thomson, Andrew Carnegie’s great-grandson

Carnegie’s drive to promote peace and understanding around the world was a highly relevant endeavor during the years leading up to World War I, but while seen as naive if not downright daft by some, Carnegie’s peace project lay at the very core of his philanthropic endeavors.

Andrew Carnegie’s peacebuilding efforts, including his seemingly quixotic “dinosaur diplomacy,” could not stop the world wars that were to come. In fact, as World War II raged, London Dippy was moved to the basement of the Natural History Museum to protect it during the blitz of the capital. Today, Dippy stands tall as a champion of our shared history and interests, a celebration — as Carnegie hoped — of the commonalities of nations.

Dippy on Tour

London’s Dippy, which has never before left its home in the Natural History Museum, has been traveling to every region of the U.K. in a three-year tour to end in October 2020.

Free to the public at each of the exhibition’s eight stops, Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure is meant to spark curiosity about the natural world while helping to bridge differences between peoples with an awe-inspiring symbol of our common history on this planet — just as Andrew Carnegie envisioned when he gifted the magnificent skeleton to the British.

“Carnegie’s legacy endures in the empowerment of people and the sharing of knowledge,” says Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Dorfman. “He understood how democracy and equality depend on access to knowledge, to culture, to education. Dippy’s U.K. tour, sharing this wonder with people who might otherwise not have access, is a proper tribute to Carnegie.”

On August 11, 1919, Andrew Carnegie passed away peacefully in Lenox, Massachusetts, with his wife, Louise, at his side. In this centennial year of his death, Carnegie institutions worldwide are hosting Forging the Future, a series of events celebrating his commitment to doing “real and permanent good in this world,” while also working to sustain his vision and his legacy into the 21st century. That philanthropic legacy has continued to evolve over the years through the ever-evolving work of the more than 20 organizations founded by the great philanthropist. The challenges these institutions address are some of the most intractable and urgent of our time.

The wildly popular Dippy on Tour exhibition is part of the Forging the Future series, which commemorates and expands upon Andrew Carnegie’s lasting achievements in peace, education, the arts, science, culture, and philanthropy. The Forging the Future series culminates in the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy awards ceremony in New York City, on October 16, 2019, where Carnegie’s boldness of vision will be recognized in the work of others who have followed in his footsteps.