Gideon Mantell

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Gideon Mantell
Gideon Mantell.jpg
Gideon Mantell 1790 - 1852
Born(1790-02-03)3 February 1790
Lewes, Sussex, England
Died10 November 1852(1852-11-10) (aged 62)
London, England
OccupationSurgeon, geologist, palaeontologist
Known forDescribing Iguanodon
RelativesWalter Mantell (son)
AwardsRoyal Medal (1849)

Gideon Algernon Mantell MRCS FRS (Lewes, 3 February 1790 – London, 10 November 1852) was an English obstetrician, geologist and palaeontologist.

Mantell's work on the structure and life of Iguanodon began the scientific study of dinosaurs. In 1822 he was responsible for the discovery (and the eventual identification) of the first fossil teeth, and later much of the skeleton, of Iguanodon.[1][2]

Mantell's work on the Cretaceous of southern England was also important. His phrase the "Age of Reptiles" was significant. He recognised that reptiles were the dominant life-form in what we now call the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Mantell did two things which were most important. He showed that the teeth of Iguanodon meant it must be a herbivore, and its shorter front legs meant it could be bipedal (walk on two legs). This was denied by Richard Owen, who did a good deal to hide Mantell's achievements.

At the end of Mantell's life he suffered terribly from damage to his spine caused by an accident. He took an overdose of opium, which caused his death. It is not known whether he did this deliberately; he took opium to dull the pain.[3]

Works by Mantell[change | change source]

Sixty-seven books and memoirs appear in Agassiz and Strickland's Bibliographia Zoologiæ, and forty-eight scientific papers in the Royal Society's Catalogue.

  • The Fossils of the South Downs. Royal 4to,[4] 42 plates. London 1822. This was his first book, the plates of which were drawn by his wife. Very expensive, at £3. 3/- (three guineas). At double the price, plates were hand-coloured.[5]
  • Outlines of the natural history of the environs of Lewes. 4to, 24pp, 3pl. Lewes, 1824.
  • Illustrations of the Geology of Sussex, containing figures and descriptions of the fossils of Tilgate Forest. Royal 4to, 20 plates, £2. 15s. 6d. 1827.
  • The Age of Reptiles. In Jameson's Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 1831.
  • The Geology of the South-East of England. 8vo, with coloured maps, sections, and numerous plates, £1. 1/-. 1833.
  • Thoughts on a Pebble. 1836.
  • The Wonders of Geology or, a familiar exposition of geological phenomena: being the substance of a course of lectures delivered at Brighton. 2 vols, London, 1838. Lithographic plates drawn by his wife. Data from 4th ed of 1840: vol 1: 428p, frontis & 4 plates; vol 2: pages 429–795 plus appendix, glossary and other material, coloured frontis & 10 coloured pates, most drawn by his wife. Mantell's most extensive work.
  • The Medals of Creation. 2 vols, 1844.
  • Thoughts on Animalcules. small 4to, 144p, 12 coloured plates. London: Murray, 1846. 1850 title: The invisible world revealed by the microscope or, thoughts on animalcules.
  • Geological Excursions round the Isle of Wight and along the adjacent Coast of Dorsetshire. 1847.
  • Petrifactions and their teachings. 1851.

References[change | change source]

  1. Cadbury, Deborah. 1998. The dinosaur hunters: a story of scientific rivalry and the discovery of the prehistoric world. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-85702-959-3.
  2. Dean, Dennis R. 1999. Gideon Mantell and the discovery of dinosaurs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42048-2
  3. Spokes, Sydney 1927. Gideon Algernon Mantell LLD, FRCS, FRS, surgeon and geologist. London: John Bales & Danielson.
  4. Royal 4to is a paper size. It produces a fairly large book with wide pages.
  5. Price details from trade adverts in other volumes.