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The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World [Paperback]

Deborah Cadbury
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Mar 2010

The story of two nineteenth-century scientists who revealed one of the most significant and exciting events in the natural history of this planet: the existence of dinosaurs.

In ‘The Dinosaur Hunters’ Deborah Cadbury brilliantly recreates the remarkable story of the bitter rivalry between two men: Gideon Mantell uncovered giant bones in a Sussex quarry, became obsessed with the lost world of the reptiles and was driven to despair. Richard Owen, a brilliant anatomist, gave the extinct creatures their name and secured for himself unrivalled international acclaim.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (26 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857029631
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857029635
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘No other narrative I know illustrates the human element in scientific discovery quite so dramatically.' Evening Standard

'This is a tale of intrigue and deception, of burning ambition and failed dreams. The bitter clashes between the men who dominated 19th- century geology are exquisitely portrayed by Deborah Cadbury in this scholarly yet exhilarating book.' Independent

'This is a story we should all know, a defining part of contemporary western culture. I can't think of a better introduction.'
Sunday Times

'This is a wonderful book, evoking a time when science required remarkable people to conduct it.' Observer

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I very rarely get to the end of a book and feel dissapointed that I had finished it, usually I am exited about my next read, but finishing this book has left me feeling as though I have said goodbye to some very good friends, still I can always read the book again. Deborah Cadbury writes this book in a very enjoyable way, explaining the progress made by early geologists in their passion of discovery, the ruthelessness of explorers and how unkind 19th century society could be with their class divisions, she also shows how these discoverys had a massive impact on theology and how answers were needed to show proof of the bible and mans evolution. this book makes for an excellent read and is an essential addition to every home library.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story Well Told 16 Nov 2000
By Mick H
I've read quite a few of the current slew of books attempting to popularise science in the wake of Dava Sobel's Longitude, but I think this is the best. Not only is it a gripping drama with a wonderful parade of characters, and tragedies and triumphs galore, but more importantly it covers the most dramatic change in our perception of ourselves and the world. Consider: at the start of the book in the early nineteenth century religion still reigned supreme, the Bible was the literal truth, and the study of what came to be known as geology and biology was the province of enthusiastic amateurs. But then, from the cliffs of Lyme Regis and from the quarries used to provide the stones for the growth of the new industrial towns and cities came these extraordinary fossils, these remains of the most incredible animals, plus clear evidence for those who could see of the unimagineable lengths of time involved in the formation of the various strata of rocks in which these remains were embedded. The resulting debate was surely one of the most momentous in scientific history, culminating in the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. I think Cadbury tells the story superbly. I particularly enjoyed the way the story starts in Jane Austen territory - Lyme Regis, early years of the century, keen young doctors and clergymen collecting plants and fossils - and then as it centres more on London gets darker, entering the familiar world of Dickens, with child deaths, disfigurements, and the crushing of hope beneath the merciless wheels of ruthless ambitions etc. etc.. Great stuff.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting Flesh on the Bones 22 Mar 2002
The Dinosaur Hunters tells the story of the pioneers of dinosaur discovery in England. These were a mixed bunch indeed, and this is what I found truly fascinating. That Mary Anning, a woman on the poverty line, could play as big a part as Gideon Mantell and establisment figure Richard Owen is extraordinary.
We take the dinosaurs for granted these days, and it is easy to forget that nobody had much of a clue what they would have looked like or what size they were after finding the first few bones. The book brings this discovery to life and puts the flesh on the bones, so to speak.
It's a great human and scientific story - and this juxtaposition is what makes the book gripping.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reviving a long lost fascination. 25 May 2005
35 years ago I loved dinosaurs. Then I grew up a bit. I forgot that I was fascinated by pictures of a world long lost. Now I have a four year old son and guess what? He loves dinosaurs.
Sitting with him looking at pictures like the ones I looked at as a child has seen my fascination resurface but, hopefully, along more adult lines.
I wanted to find out more of the history of paleontology and the early pioneers of the science. This book fits the bill admirably. It binds together and winds between the lives of some of the earliest fossil hunters from Mary Anning, digging to live, to the French scientist Cuvier, at the peak of his fame and courted around the world. The Machevellian political manouevres of Richard Owen and the obsessive devotion to science of Gideon Mantell.
The first half of the nineteenth century was an era of momentous change in Britain and the world with industrial revolution and theories of evolution profoundly challenging the way we look at the world we inhabit. This book neatly sets out the role the new science of geology played in that time.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable romp with dinosaurs! 13 Aug 2001
By A Customer
A thoroughly enjoyable romp through the discovery of dinosaurs in Victorian England. This is popular science and history as it should be written. Informative but lively and with a strong narrative drive. A number of stories are told, although I was most interested in Mary Anning, having just visited Lyme Regis, and it is an ideal book for holidays in that area.

I also liked the way that interesting stories, such as the meal in the giant model dinosaurs, are included in the book and illuminate both the central story of the discovery of dinosaurs, and social manners in Victorian England. It would have been interesting to be a little more certain of how the discovery of dinosaurs occurred in other countries, but this would probably have slowed the narrative too much.

An excellent introduction to this subject.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant!! 15 Oct 2006
By Rich
I've just finished this wonderful book and it's one of the best popular science/history works I've ever read. Perhaps the author was a little biased against Richard Owen, but then he was such a lying, plagerising egotist that it's hard not to agree with her presentation. Likewise, it's hard not to feel enormous sympathy for the much-maligned, brilliant and humane Gideon Mantell.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars book club
this was bought becsuse a member of our book club chose this. i was a bit hesitant at first but soon came to enjoy the rivalry involved.
Published 27 days ago by mike ulph
5.0 out of 5 stars my review
fascinating loved it a real good read I could not put it down. Prompt delivery would definitely recommend to my friends
Published 1 month ago by gilly iloveblackandwhitefilms
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for Dinosaur fans...
If, like me, you have kept your childhood wonder about those magnicent beasts then this book is what you are looking for. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Roland
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it and weep!
A fantastic read. The dinosaur hunters takes you on a tour of the history of the men and women who were instrumental in the discovery and classification of the first dinosaurs. Read more
Published 19 months ago by D. Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed
Fascinating, couldn't put it down, well written and easy to read. One of the best books I have read for quite a while.
Published 21 months ago by barnton
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
A well researched and detailed but readable book which illuminates and brings to life the development of our understanding and interpreation of fossils and the key characters who... Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2011 by AndyB
5.0 out of 5 stars Buried Treasure
The Dinosaur Hunters is one of the best written science/history books I have read in a long time. I think the only books I have read that are on a par with it are 'Stars Beneath... Read more
Published on 16 Nov 2010 by Mr. Ian D. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent tale of intrigue in Victorian England
Highly recommended. I came to this book after reading Tracy Chevalier's novel,Remarkable Creatures, as I wanted to know more about the people involved in the founding of the new... Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2009 by aubergine wellies
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page-turner!
Probably the most unexpectedly compulsive read for a long time, this is a (non-fictional) saga worthy of a TV mini-series. Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2009 by PJW Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This is one of the best science books I'v ever read.
I found the story of the rivalry between Mantell and Owen gripping. Owen comes across as almost evil. Read more
Published on 16 April 2008 by Kasablanka
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