Monday, March 15, 2010

Famous dinosaur fossil hunters

Movies like Jurassic Park make our fascination with dinosaurs seem risky and exciting. Dinosaur hunting can be both hazardous and exciting, but not in the way that the movies portray.

Dinosaur hunting is intellectually exciting, but things do not normally occur as quickly or as flashily as in the movies. Much of it is more tedious, sweaty job. Long trips to isolated places, shovels and picks. Viewing at pieces of rocks and bones, comparing bits of evidence.

There have been lots of people over the years interested in the past. Some have been interested in the distant past of prehistoric times. Bones have been found out for thousands of years. It was not until the 19th century, though, that some of those bones became known belonging to a different sort of animal. Large. Reptilian. Dinosaur!

The premature study of what became known as dinosaurs began in Europe, with many of the leaders in the field being British.

One of the premature dinosaur hunters was Gideon Mantell (1790-1852), who was a doctor from East Sussex, England. In 1822 he explained a tooth that his wife is said to have found along the road while traveling in West Sussex. The story of Gideon Mantell is accessible on a National Geographic DVD titled The Dinosaur Hunters.

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