A chance fossil find leads to fame

Archival photograph of Mignon Talbot, who taught geology and geography at Mount Holyoke from 1904 to her retirement in 1935.

By Keely Sexton

The commonwealth of Massachusetts is considering Podokesaurus holyokensis for its state dinosaur. State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis, a Democrat from Framingham, introduced the legislation as a means of educating people about the legislative process. 

The first — and only — fossil of the beast was found by Mount Holyoke College professor Mignon Talbot in 1910, when she encountered it on one of her many walks. Talbot, who taught geology (and later geography) from 1904 to her retirement in 1935, was the first woman to name and describe a dinosaur. She named the diminutive carnivore Podokesaurus holyokensis, or the “swift-footed lizard of Holyoke.” 

Sadly, the original fossil was destroyed in a fire at Williston Hall, which burned to the ground in 1917, though cast replicas still exist.

Read the story.

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