by Deborah Cadbury
It's amazing to think that the birth of paleontology was sparked by a 12-year-old girl's unearthing of a 17-foot-long "crocodile" in the cliffs of Dorset, England, in 1812. This discovery and others like it ignited emotions and curiosity in many scientists and philosophers alike. Reverend William Buckland saw the find as substantiation of the Bible's story of the Great Flood. Naturalist Gideon Mantell and anatomist Richard Owen sparred with conflicting theories to explain the discovery. Owen gained prominence by naming the prehistoric creatures "dinosaurs." However, the credit for establishing the tenants of the new science of paleontology rightfully belongs to Mantell, although Owen often claimed Mantell's ideas as his own. Cadbury's dramatic rendition of the first dinosaur hunters' stories captures the religious and scientific ramifications of early fossil finds. These stories forever changed our view of evolutionary history and set the stage for Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. First published in Great Britain in 2000.
H Holt & Co, 2001, 374 p., b&w; photos/illus., hardcover
To subscribe to Science News call 1-800-552-4412
Copyright 2001, Science Service