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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 16 November 2000
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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on 22 March 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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on 10 February 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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on 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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on 20 August 2015
This interesting book tells the story of the discovery of the first three dinosaur species and the struggles of the men who found them. Cadbury also covers the exploits of fossil-hunter extraordinaire Mary Anning, and details Huxley's destroying Richard Owen in the same manner as Owen did to his own rivals.

The book deals at length and in detail with the inter-personal struggles involving Buckland, Mantell and Owen (who comes across as a thorough-going scumbag); she also discusses some of the science, but I would have liked some more details, particularly a bit more about the work of Georges Cuvier, whose importance in biology at the time is mentioned by Cadbury.

A very interest book, however, and a salutary lesson that while science deals with colossal timescales and with timeless truths, it's still human beings who do the discovering, and many of their motives are decidedly venal.
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VINE VOICEon 23 February 2015
At University i studied History and Philosophy of Science as a minor subject and fascinating it was, particularly evolution. So i knew many of the famous names in this - Cuvier, Lamarck, Darwin and others but amazingly the 3 stars of this marvellous book i'd never heard of - Anning, Mantell and Owens. I wish i'd read the book then because it peoples the story of the search for evidence and puts real flesh on the bones of the topic like no text book can. Thus it becomes a rivetting read on many levels - scientific, moral, political and, not least, personal. The lives and struggles of these people were incredible and the competitive nature of the hunt for the best fossil quite thrilling, not just for the insights into the geology and dinosaurs but the religious beliefs being undermined by science. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this book. It has made me want to delve further into all of the related topics again - darwin etc. First class writing, research and characterisation by the author. Easy 5 stars.
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on 13 August 2001
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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on 15 October 2006
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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on 20 August 2014
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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on 24 August 2016
I have a confession: I’ve secretly always wanted to be a Paleontologist but Nursing was the first to accept me, so now I just contently read about portions of “former worlds” that have and are still waiting to be discovered. I’m not afraid to admit, I kept my childhood collection of fossils and unusual stones after all these years. That wonder and interest never seems to diminish in any capacity and if you are like me and get excited when a new dinosaur is unearthed and named in the news or still look for interesting rocks when you are in the garden then you will enjoy The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World by Deborah Cadbury.

In this completely memorizing work Ms. Cadbury takes the reins and invites the reader to take a comprehensive journey into the 19th century and experience: the dawning of incredible discoveries, consuming obsessions, distinct examples of eccentricities of genius minds, unrelenting greed and a New Year's Eve society dinner in the belly of an Iguanodon. You may think that this class of topics would be hard to follow but surprisingly this book captures the reader’s full attention and explains complicated theories and technical scientific specifics in a very friendly manner that makes this title an absolute joy to read and polished gem for readers that love relics of history, 19th century England and historic individuals you would like to add to the list of answers to that fun question: If you could invite 3 people (living or dead) to dinner, who would you choose? Well after finishing this impressive book, I would be honored if Mary Anning and Dr. Gideon A. Mantell would sit at my dinner table (the third would be Thomas Andrews, Jr. but that name pertains to a completely separate subject of history). The brilliant contributions to the advancement of geology and palaeontology these mentioned two are shown in this title to have given are just amazing and if you have never heard of Mary Anning or Dr. Gideon A. Mantell please pick up a copy or purchase The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World by Deborah Cadbury. After reading you will never forget their names or this fascinating book. Highly Recommend.
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