Joseph Burr Tyrrell, the dinosar hunter being celebrated by a Google Doodle in Canada, wasn't looking for ancient reptiles. But his discoveries helped find a vast trove of fossils lurking beneath Canada.

He began his work as a miner, looking for coal. But on one such an expedition he found a a fossilized Albertosaurus sarcophagus skull that set off a "great dinosaur rush" as people scrambled across Canada looking for even more specimins.

And it is that work – in discovering what would eventually become a vast number of bones – that qualified him for the doodle, which is marking his 160th birthday.

Tyrrell was born in Ontario on this day in 1858. He had a difficult and sickly childhood, contracting scarlet fever and being left with impaired eyesight and hearing. His doctor advised that his health might be improved by working outside, and he committed to join an expedition through the Rockies as people were exploring the wilderness of Canada.

It was on a later expedition, when he was 26, that Tyrrell was looking to explore "the Badlands". Looking for coal, he dug up the enormous and ancient skull and skeleton, which on inspection turned out to be 70 million years old.

He dug up the fossils and sent them back to Calgary – on a cart that was broken by the vast weight of the bones. They eventually made their way back to experts who found that they belonged to a relative of the T rex.

In Google's blog announcing the new doodle, it showed how artist Helene Leroux had worked to really create the images seen in it. And it didn't always look quite so impressive.

(Google)

 

Tyrrell would write about how much joy the area he helped populate with ancient dinosaurs brought him throughout his life.

"My idea of peace and comfort was a tent by a clear brook anywhere north of 50 degrees of North Latitude," wrote Tyrrell. "A ground-sheet and blankets enough, a side of salt pork and a bag of flour… For glory, I had the stars and the Northern Lights."

 

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