Thomas Austin, Sr. (1794-1881) and to a lesser extent his son Thomas Austin, Jr. (1817-before 1881) are recognized as important early students of both Carboniferous and Jurassic crinoids. However, the extent of their understanding of crinoids was not appreciated until the recent discovery of unpublished materials of Austin, Sr., including a manuscript dated 1855, plates indicating the intended continuation of their never finished 1843-1849 systematic monograph, and photographs of fossil crinoids.
Within at most three and one-half decades after Johann Samuel Miller (1779-1830) first named the class Crinoidea in 1821, Austin, Sr. accurately summarized the broad outline of crinoid evolutionary history. Furthermore, Austin had a post-natural-historical interpretation of fossil crinoids. Fossil crinoids were not just ancient organisms to be described and classified, but Austin tried to interpret the biology of these fossils. Furthermore, he considered questions of taphonomy, functional morphology, paleoecology, processes controlling evolutionary trends, and crinoid deposits—still topics of interest to paleobiologists 150 years later; and he also discussed crinoid "evolution" and extinction. Other discussion is present on the history of crinoid studies from a middle-1800's perspective and on the superstitious and medicinal uses of crinoid fossils.
But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn If, on a rock by Lindisfarne, Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame The sea-born beads that bear his name: Such tales had Whitby's fishers told, And said they might his shape behold, And hear his anvil sound; A deaden'd clang,-a huge dim form Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm And night were closing round. But this, as tale of idle fame, The nuns of Lindisfarne disclaim.