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The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World Paperback – 26 Mar 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (26 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857029631
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857029635
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 279,214 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.

Review

‘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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "gwj270967" on 10 Feb 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By Mick H on 16 Nov 2000
Format: Hardcover
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 By B. Ukiah on 22 Mar 2002
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G. Toseland on 25 May 2005
Format: Hardcover
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 By A Customer on 13 Aug 2001
Format: Paperback
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 By Rich on 15 Oct 2006
Format: Paperback
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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