I decided to dig out my old books on Dinosaurs and I’ve been having a lot of fun drawing dinosaurs and reading about the past. The study of evolution is fascinating and I’ve had a few ideas for some future Illustrations.
I thought I would write about and Illustrate some pioneers of Paleontology. I will follow up next week with some more famous people in Dinosaur science.
Robert Plot was an Oxford University Professor who wrote a book called The Natural History of Oxfordshire, published in 1677. In the book there was a detailed drawing of a bone specimen he had found which he described as coming from a giant man or woman (perhaps he had found a fossil bean stalk next to it). The bone was later understood to come from the thigh bone of a dinosaur called Megalosaurus (giant reptile: the first dinosaur to be named later in 1824 by William Buckland). The understanding of the origins of the earth still relied on Biblical accounts at this time and fossils were not really understood by scientists. People thought that the Earth was created at 8pm on Saturday 3rd October 4004BC, so the notion of prehistoric life was completely crazy to them. People preferred to think the bones came from giant men.
By 1820 science had progressed and people understood that the Earth was much older and fossils were the remains of ancient plants and animals. Geologists had analysed the thickness of sedimentary rocks and understood there had been extinctions from discovering bones of Mammoths, although they still theorised that the Great Flood in the Bible could have been the explanation.
Mary Anne Mantell
I remember reading about Mary Mantell when I was a child. Mary is famous for finding one of the first dinosaurs whilst walking along a road in southern England in 1822. In some rubble she found the huge tooth of an Iguanodon. She was a remarkable and intelligent woman who found many rocks and fossils and also Illustrated them, although her husband at the time Dr Gideon Mantell gets a lot of the credit for her discoveries.
In next weeks blog post I will follow up with some more pioneers of the past and perhaps a few dinosaur Illustrations as well.