Terrible Lizard


An important and interesting story, artfully and insightfully told – such is Deborah Cadbury’s Terrible Lizard: The First Dinosaur Hunters and the Birth of a New Science. Replete with such interesting characters as the remarkable Mary Anning, the whimsically eccentric William Buckland, the brilliant, discerning and tragic Gideon Mantell, and the execrable Richard Owen, Terrible Lizard relates the story of the emerging cognizance in the first half of the nineteenth century of the past reality of the age of dinosaurs. Ms. Cadbury, a science producer for the BBC, deftly explains the course of growing understanding which eventually led to the illuminating revelations of Charles Darwin. Aside from its own intrinsic merits, Terrible Lizard is a worthy complement to, and fills the temporal gap between, two other recently reviewed books: Paul Chambers’ Bones of Contention: The Archaeopteryx Scandals, discussed in Archaeopteryx: Fight of Flight?, and Simon Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

If you have even the slightest interest in paleontology, dinosaurs, fossils, the history of science, or even the social milieu of nineteenth century Britain, this book will capture, retain, and richly reward your attention. Likewise, if you have read and enjoyed such classic works on the period as Loren Eisely’s Darwin’s Century or William Irvine’s Apes, Angels and Victorians, here is another book for you.

See previous posts for brief excerpts from Terrible Lizard on William Buckland, on Mary Anning and, most recently Gideon Mantell.

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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