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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating,excellently written and enjoyable read., 10 Feb 2002
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 
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
By 
B. Ukiah (London, England) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Reviving a long lost fascination., 25 May 2005
By 
G. Toseland (Daventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read and very informative too. If you are fascinated by dinosaurs and fossils, read it. I can't see you not loving it., 20 Aug 2014
By 
I love this book. I've given it as a gift and recommended it to fossil-minded friends or those with a geological bent, but equally it appeals to those who are intrigued by the subject but know little about it.
It is very readable, in that it tells a story very easily without the reader requiring knowledge of the subject matter - in fact that is exactly what it provides the reader with, educating and enlightening along the way, without you having to worry about taking it all in and keeping up with the technicalities because the story is so well written that it entertains on its own, however much you know at the beginning or learn by the end.
But beware that you may never look at rocks and cliffs the same way again without having a closer dig around to see what may lurk within...

For less fact, more passion and more fiction try Tracy Chevalier: Remarkable Creatures - it really expresses the wonder and excitement felt when fossil-hunting although it does use some 'poetic licence' with a feminine touch. Actually despite some of my reservations I couldn't put it down.
For more fact, wordiness and greater detail try Simon Winchester: The Map That Changed The World. He is a master of language and his subjects are impeccably researched and referenced throughout. It shows how fossils helped define modern understanding and the science of geology itself. It is a studied read requiring your careful attention though, but it is amongst my all time favourite reads.

All three books help show how evolution theories evolved, supported by 'hard evidence', and how other areas of related sciences influenced each other so much, but I'd say this book has a wider appeal than the other two and manages to pack an awful lot of diversely sourced research into one book too.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dinosaurs , but not as we know them, 28 April 2005
By 
Ian Thumwood "ian17577" (Winchester) - See all my reviews
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As a child over thirty years ago, there was nothing more that interested me than dinosaurs. Today, with scientists recently debating the realistic oportunities of studying dinosaur DNA (something laughed at when the film "Jurassic Park" came out ten years ago !!), Deborah Cadbury's excellent book takes me back to the days of my tea card books where the prehistoric animal series featured accounts of Gideon Mantell and Richard Owen - the two protagonists in the early days of dinosaur research. Looking back to these books, our image of the fantastic creatures has changed dramatically over the last 30 years and Cadbury's account captures the wonderment of the scientists of the first half of the 19th Century as they tried to make sense of the finds for the very first time. Their reconstructions were often hopelessly wrong and the numerous illustrations in this book are fascinating in their Victorian perception of the prehistoric world. This was a time when Noah's flood was still taken seriously.
As if the account of the early days of palaeontology is not interesting enough, this book is livened up by the story of Mantell's and Owen's rivalry and how the latter managed to suppress the former's theories and eventually discredit him. However, the author keeps us guessing as to whether Mantell would eventually come to be vindicated keeping the reader guessing until the end. Will the villainous Owen eventually get his just deserts ? You will have to read the book to find out !!
With our benefit of 170 years of scientific research, the valiant attempts of the great scientific minds of the age to solve the mystery of the dinosaurs now seem quaint and I kept on thinking just how suprised these people would be if we could tell them what we well know now. All in all, this is the kind of book that you will find impossible to put down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great victorian insight, 12 Oct 2014
This tells the story of the geological pioneers William Buckland, Mary Anning, Robert Curvier, Gideon Mantel and Richard Owen, with particular focus on the rivalry of the latter two. Admittedly this concept didn’t appear too enthralling to begin with, but became a very enjoyable read once it go going a bit. The book flows well and does make you empathise for the characters – Particularly Anning and Mantel.

The focus remains on the Mantel/Owen rivalry however and as such seems to skip over some interesting sounding stories like the plight of Anning of society’s treatment of the madness of Buckland. It’s fascinating though, if seemingly abridged at times.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The birth of a new science - intrigue, despair, genius..., 11 Nov 2000
By A Customer
How do you make a popular page-turner out of a musty pre-Victorian academic squabble? Deborah Cadbury clearly knows how. The blurb tells you that you won't be able to put "The Dinosaur Hunters" down and for once, it's true. The pathos of Mantell, the honest Lewes GP being ripped-off by Owen, the streetwise London anatomist is poignant, but there's more, much more.
Remember reading about the Corn Laws at school? Mary Anning knew more than she would have liked about their effects on the poor of the early 19th century, yet in her efforts to scrape a meagre living she uncovered two pivotal classes of pre-historic marine reptile.
Stephen Jay Gould has pointed out what a poor old fool William Buckland was to cling so tenaciously to the idea of the Biblical flood. Cadbury is more sympathetic, and explores the deep rift in scientific philosophy between revolutionary France and reactionary England. After all, before Darwin all the rationalists had to replace Moses with was the now (to some)laughable Lamarck - a man who is put by Cadbury in his proper context as a visionary who was so much closer to what we now regard as the truth than were his contempories.
My disappointment was to find out that 150 years ago there was a Royal Sussex Institution on Old Steine in Brighton, filled with bones of dinosaurs from the Tilgate Forest, which is no longer there. Has Brighton Corporation attached a blue plaque to the building yet, and if not, why not?
If you want a flavour of what it was like to hunt dinosaurs before there was such a word, this book should be your starting point.
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