By this stage, however, Owen's transgressions were beginning to catch up with him. His undoing began when a committee of the Royal Society—a committee of which he happened to be chairman—decided to award him its highest honor, the Royal Medal, for a paper he had written on an extinct mollusc called the belemnite. "However," as Deborah Cadbury notes in her excellent history of the period, Terrible Lizard, "this piece of work was not quite as original as it appeared."
The belemnite, it turned out, had been discovered four years earlier by an amateur naturalist named Chaning Pearce, and the discovery had been fully reported at a meeting of the Geological Society. Owen had been at that meeting, but failed to mention this when he presented a report of his own to the Royal Society—in which, not incidentally, he rechristened the creature Belemnites owenii in his own honor. Although Owen was allowed to keep the Royal Medal, the episode left a permanent tarnish on his reputation, even among his few remaining supporters.
Eventually Huxley managed to do to Owen what Owen had done to so many others: he had him voted off the councils of the Zoological and Royal societies. As a final insult Huxley became the new Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons.