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The Dragon Seekers: How An Extraordinary Circle Of Fossilists Discovered The Dinosaurs And Paved The Way For Darwin
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The Dragon Seekers: How An Extraordinary Circle Of Fossilists Discovered The Dinosaurs And Paved The Way For Darwin

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  140 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, an extraordinary circle of fossilists struggled to make sense of a mysterious, prehistoric world--a world they had to piece together from the fossilized and often fragmentary remains of animals never before seen. In this transporting, seamlessly written book, Christopher McGowan takes us back to a time when geology and pal ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 18th 2002 by Basic Books (first published 2001)
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Nov 04, 2015 Daphne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-audio, quest
A splendid little book about the history of paleontology. I've read so many of these books through the years about the same characters, but I just can't seem to get enough of them.
Nov 04, 2010 Christina rated it really liked it
I picked up this book with the intent to gain a more historically accurate look at the life of Mary Anning (having just read a fictionalized account of her life in Remarkable Creatures). Although at times academic and somewhat technical, it was engaging, flowed well, and was highly readable. I found my interest increased as the terminology and leading theories of the day became more familiar. The book not only covers the foremost geologists, biologists, and emergent paleontologists of the day, i ...more
Eugene Kernes
Jun 13, 2016 Eugene Kernes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-history
This book describes the history of paleontology, geology, and evolution. A lot of the science behind the search for fossils and interpretation of the fossils is explained in great detail. Science takes time to obtain a proper findings, made even harder due to the extraction of fragile fossils and made rare by geological events that crush the dinosaur skeletons. The theory of evolution would not have been possible without the work of Cuvier in the field of anatomy or of Lamarck's theory of transm ...more
James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it liked it
Another popular retelling of the discovery of the first dinosaurs and marine reptiles in England. The author is himself an expert on ichthyosaurs. This book is more matter of fact than Terrible Lizard, telling the story of the discoveries without embellishing it with "intrigues"; Richard Owen comes off much better in this account. There is a chapter on Thomas Hawkins and his "restored" collection and the accompanying scandal. The book ends with a discussion of modern finds near Lyme Regis. A lig ...more
Noli Watson
Dec 28, 2014 Noli Watson rated it really liked it
(also posted at

It’s an extraordinary cast indeed: Owen, who coined the taxonomic idea of dinosaurs; Buckland and Mantell, who discovered the first ones; Mary Anning, the finest fossil hunter of her generation. This group of contemporaries, active in England in the first half of the nineteenth century, gave us dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles as objects of scientific study. (We’ve always had them, of course, weathering out of rocks and visible to everyone. It’s the
Josh Gulch
Nov 18, 2009 Josh Gulch rated it it was amazing
While the title is perhaps a mite bit misleading in regard to the role that dinosaurs played to these early fossilists, this ought not to detract from the narrative. Indeed, the true stars of this tale are the often overlooked icthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and the intrepid individuals who realized the relevance of the assorted remains they were plucking out of mountains and beaches. While the dinosaurs that they discovered opened the floodgates for the thousands of known species that followed, it is ...more
Jun 30, 2010 Ciara rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
a book about the origins of paleontology as a discipline! super-interesting! i mean, imagining to be among the first people to dig a collection of bones out of a cliff & realize that you are seeing the remains of an animal that has never been seen before by any living person. & not just that, but it's some kind of enormous lizard!

this book seeks to collect together the stories of the first few notable paleontologists & geologists, including mary anning, who was never allowed to join
Jun 05, 2016 Jc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful history of the early days of paleontology, focusing mostly on the growth of interest in early 19th century England. The scientific innocence and amateurish enthusiasm of the period is so important to growth of paleontology from a thing of private collectors into a serious study of life. A must read, and an entertaining one, for anyone interested in the hist0ry of the biological and evolutionary sciences.
Michael Anderson
Feb 03, 2014 Michael Anderson rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book about the British origins of paleontology in the half-century before Darwin, relationships among the major players of the day, how religious beliefs affected the thinking of the early fossil hunters, and how gradual accumulation of anatomical and geological knowledge eroded the influence of the church to permit Darwin's theories to find an easier acceptance than they might otherwise have had. It is worth reading.
Elizabeth Wilson
Apr 25, 2016 Elizabeth Wilson rated it it was amazing
If you think you knew how dinosaurs were discovered, since this topic is covered in several books about dinosaurs in general, think again. I know about Buckland, Owens and Mantell, but I didn't understand how what they did changed understanding of a part of Earth Science. Beyond this, you can see how others contributed to the understanding of Life on this planet. These include Mary Anning, whom almost no one mentions, as well as the other Big Guns. If you like this, try the The story of Life in ...more
Fascinating look at the pre-Darwinian fossil hunters and the ways they tried to make sense of their finds. McGowan talks about their relationships to each other and the ways in which they influenced one another, and it made for a really interesting story. There were a couple bits that didn't seem to quite fit or that I somehow missed the connections for, but for the most part I found it super interesting and well narrated (although at the beginning I found the narrator's voice really perplexing, ...more
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
Mar 04, 2008 Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea rated it liked it
Shelves: history, science
This was definitely a nice diversion from some of the stuff I've been reading. Interesting in its own way and a nice introduction to some very eccentric pre-Darwinists. These were people that used the sciences of geology and paleontology to bolster the Bible's version of life. That is until more evidence was discovered that made it more and more difficult to believe Genesis. It was a fairly quick read and pretty accessible. I intend to read the Origin of Species by Darwin and then move into the ...more
Nick Tredger
Jun 29, 2014 Nick Tredger rated it really liked it
Great expose of early archaeology and the strange and driven people that search for bones! I found it fascinating.
Feb 28, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
This book was a little more dry than I would have liked, but it gave good insight into fossil hunters in England.
Oct 28, 2011 Heidi rated it liked it
Interesting narrative about the "original" geologists in 1800s England. Includes the story behind the discovery and naming of dinosaurs like megalosaurus and iguanodon. Great for those of us who "lived and breathed" dinosaurs with our preschoolers!
Jan 07, 2012 Janet rated it it was amazing
As a natural history buff, I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting, readable and brought early scientists and fossil finders to life. I look forward to reading more books by Mr McGowan.
David Kessler
Mar 26, 2010 David Kessler rated it really liked it
Earliest bone collections right out of the SW shores of England and how did these early bone collectors do it.
Great story and very tightly written
Mar 10, 2010 Rose rated it it was amazing
Wonderful story of the development of the science of geology and of all the quirky personalities who added to the founding of the science.
After listening in the car during my commute, i'd come home and look up the people and dinos talked about in the book. fun read.
Mar 24, 2008 Courtney rated it it was amazing
this was amazing. i love natural history and this book was exactly what i wanted to learn.
Jan 15, 2016 Aislinn rated it really liked it
great pop science book
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