The Dinosaur Hunters
The Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury
It may seem surprising but dinosaurs are actually a British “invention” of the early 19th century. The name dinosaur was coined in 1842 by an English anatomist Richard Owen, a highly ambitious, machiavellian schemer and villain of Deborah Cadbury’s The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World. Her hero is Gideon Mantell, a practising doctor, who found and first described many of the bones of the beasts that subsequently became known as dinosaurs. Full of quotes from contemporary sources, The Dinosaur Hunters brilliantly evokes the Dickensian world of early Victorian science and society. From Mary Anning, the self-taught fossil hunter of Lyme Regis to the academic and deeply eccentric Dean Buckland of Oxford University, the story tells of reputations made and lost as self-help, self-promotion, over-wheening pride, folly and social climbing all played their part in the emerging story of the geological past. The dinosaurs, although central to the story, are also a vehicle for the much larger, more interesting and important story about the struggle to understand the meaning of fossils and what they tell us about prehistory. Deborah Cadbury, an award-winning TV science producer and acclaimed author of The Feminisation of Nature has thoroughly researched her topic and steeped herself in the intricacies of the scientific debates of the time. With black and white illustrations, extensive notes, a bibliography and index, the result is one of the best popular science histories. —Douglas Palmer.