Mr Konig

Dodging pedestrians and horse-drawn traffic, Mantell made his way through the Saturday afternoon crowds of summertime London in 1834, toward the familiar rendezvous on Charing Cross Road. Buckland never seemed to want to meet anywhere else, and always stayed at the Salopian Coffee House during his visits to London. But Mantell preferred other accommodations. After exchanging pleasantries the two men got down to the business of their meeting. About a year before, Thomas Hawkins had offered his...

The Tooth of the Iguana

The frontispiece of Mantcll's second book, Illustrations of the Geology of Sussex, is an engaging pastoral scene of the quarry at Whitemans Green. Trees and shrubs encroach upon the quarry, and the summer sun casts short shadows on the warm rocks. Several quarrymen work away at a large boulder, under the watchful eye of two gentlemen in top hats, and a third top-hatted figure wields a mallet. A man in the background pushes a wheelbarrow across a narrow plank, spanning a gully at the top of the...

Info

Gideon Algernon Mantell and his wife, Marv Ann Mantell. Regent), who commanded that his name be placed at the top of the list for four copies. Mantell's subscription list increased more rapidly than he had dared hope for. This was a reflection of the growing public interest in the new sciences of geology and paleontology. It was also a portent of Mantell's future role as a popularizer of science. Mantell had been working on the book for almost four years and must have been feeling relieved as...

Improving on Nature

A contemporary described him as being of middle height, with fair hair and a foxy, unpleasant face. When Owen first met him he described him as a worthy and eccentric man of genius. Mantell said the twenty-two-year-old was very romantic, very weak, very good natured, & 1 fear very headstrong. The Somerset locals of his Glastonbury hometown, near Street, may have viewed Hawkins as a gentleman of means, with nothing better to do with his time or wealth than...

Revelation

Real Life Dragon Skeleton

Fossilists and social reformers alike could claim 1824 as a banner year the dawning of a new era of understanding. At the same time Buckland was busy exploring caves and fossiling at Stonesfield, those preoccupied with the harsh realities of their present world witnessed Parliament's repeal of the Combination Act. The Combination Act, which had been in force for the previous twenty-five years, made it illegal for workers to join together to improve working conditions, effectively banishing...

Hawkins Laver Strawberries

Konig wrote a similar letter to Mantell, but delayed informing the trustees for three weeks, presumably because he wanted to hear back from the two evalua-tors first. His formal report to the trustees, dated February 12, 1835, read . . . Mr. Konig regrets he is necessitated to acquaint the Trustees that a discovery of rather vexatious nature has been made since the arrival of that Hawkins collection at the Museum. The two largest specimens, especially the principal Ichthyosaurus, which on...

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The incomplete skeleton of Leptonectes moorei, named in honor of its discoverer, Chris Moore. ically younger than the Blue Lias by several million years. Until the beginning of 1995 ichthyosaurs had never been found there. The Dorset coast, no stranger to winter gales, was lashed by a particularly heavy storm one January night in 1995. Chris Moore, who owns a fossil preparation workshop in Charmouth, listened to the howling wind, hoping the sea would uncover some fresh fossil-bearing exposures....

The Professor and the Naturalist

While Hawkins was nursing his wounds, Richard Owen was rising quickly in the rarefied world of academia. Luck, and the approbation of influential men like Buckland, probably played some small measure in Owen's rapid ascent. But most of his success was attributable to his own brilliance and sheer hard work. Owen, like Mantell, began as a physician, completing his studies at London's Royal College of Surgeons under the same John Abernethy 1764-1831 who was both president of the college and of the...

The World of Darkness

Paviland Cave Buckland

The Yorkshire moors in winter can be one of the coldest and most desolate spots in England. Winds can howl, driving rain in sheets or snow in blinding flurries. Or the winds can drop, granting silent tenure to the dank mist that stalks the land. However cold it might have been on the December day in 1821 when Buckland arrived on the moor, he must have noticed how warm it was inside the cave. It would have felt as warm as the European caves had felt cold, relative to the summer's warmth during...

Landslides Glaciers and Riots

Most of the inhabitants of Lyme had taken to their beds well before midnight on Christmas night, 1839. But some lamps and candles burned on, shedding a little light onto the deserted streets. Gooses had been eaten, presents opened, and toasts drunk for another year at least in the wealthy homes. Buckland's light was probably one of those still burning the Bucklands were staying in town for the holiday season. He planned to do a little fossiling and see some local collectors. They would also pay...

Mary Anning Ichthyosaur

Ichthyosaurus Tenuirostris Skeleton

Two hundred years after Mary Anning's birth an international delegation of geologists, paleontologists, historians, fossil collectors, authors, and other interested parties gathered in Lyme Regis to celebrate her life and times. For four days we met in the Marine Theatre, reviewing a broad tapestry of topics, ranging from Mary Anning's paleontological contributions to the unstable geology of the Dorset coast. The small theater overlooks the sea and was built on the site of the old public baths,...

By the

Snakestones Monmouth Cliffs

Lyme Regis today, on England's picturesque Dorset coast, is a typical seaside resort all buckets, spades, and ice cream, beaches, cliffs, and crowds. The cries of gulls and the sound of surf are the familiar accompaniments of the sea, but one sound that seems strangely out of place is the ring of steel on stone. The sound of geological hammers striking rock has become the chorusfamiliar is along this stretch of the coast, however, come summer and winter. It is a sound that has rung out for two...

In the Beginning

It is a remarkable fact that the human mind, which has had a presence on Earth for over 2 million years, only began rational thought on how species came into existence during the last three centuries. Prior to this age of enlightenment people were content with mythological explanations. These were later supplanted by formal religious beliefs, as in the Genesis account of the Creation. Fossils, which are central to the issue of origins, have been known since the classical time of the Greeks. But...

Notes

Chapter 1 p. 2 Darwin's quote on his orthodoxy is from Darwin, F., ed. The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. London Murray, 1887, pp. 307-308. pp. 7 8 Darwin's quotes regarding the advantages of delaying publication are from the previously cited reference, pp. 87-88.The citation for the Origin is Darwin, C. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d. ed. London Murray, 1861....

The Scriptures and the Rocks

William Buckland was larger than life, and his enthusiasm for geology and paleontology must have been self-evident to all who met him. Sir Roderick Murchison, a contemporary geologist, describes visiting him in his rooms in college On repairing to Buckland's domicile, I never can forget the scene that awaited me. Having . . . climbed up a narrow staircase, I entered a long corridor-like room, which was filled with rocks, shells, and bones in dire confusion, and in a sort of sanctum at the end...

Acknowledgments

One of the joys of writing this book has been encountering so many generous and kindly people who have helped me in so many different ways. I thank each one of you, not only for your practical assistance, which has been indispensable, but also for your enthusiastic support and encouragement. Knowing where to begin to express my deep gratitude poses a great challenge. Perhaps I should follow my paleontological proclivity and begin chronologically. I began researching the literature for this book...