25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A Great Story Well Told,
This review is from: The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World (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.