Dinosaur Doctor: The Life and Work of Gideon Mantell by Edmund Critchley

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Gideon Mantell (1790-1852) was a respected surgeon and a pioneering geologist and palaeontologist. Using his skill in comparative anatomy, he pieced together unidentified bone fragments found in chalk quarries to evaluate the modes of life of early dinosaurs, including the Iguanodon, his most famous discovery. From the flora and fauna of the rock strata he established the Age of Reptiles, and he revealed how the soft bodies of animalcules formed the chalk. Most of his findings came from the Weald in south east England, where he made an extensive study of the geology and he is most associated with Lewesin Sussex where he lived for most of his life. Mantell's collection of antiquities and fossils of every size was exhibited to the public and later formed a major section of the British Museum. Coming from humble, dissenting stock in a provincial town, he qualified as a surgeon through an apprenticeship when 15 years old, and developed a strenuous practice in surgery, midwifery and general medicine, making advances in medical science. With his background he became embroiled in Whig politics and support for the underdog, influenced by Tom Paine and the French Revolution. Mantell's journal and correspondence provide a fascinating insight into the social history of the period. The need to achieve financial stability through his profession frequently conflicted with his scientific endeavours, but despite this he became a famous writer and lecturer, with books such as the Wonders of Geology and Medals of Creation. He exhibited along with other members of the Royal Society at scientific conversazioni, patronised by Prince Albert.



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