Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Revew Time

I'd like to make Mondays my book review day, but there are so many books and I'm so lazy that I have to do them when I can.
I'd like to recommend Christopher McGowan, The Dragon Seekers. It's a paperback, costs 17 bucks and is worth it. If you're cheap, you can probably find it in the library. My daughter bought it because of the jacket design but never read it, I found it, thought the jacket design was okay but not great, and found treasure inside.
There's a blurb on the jacket that reads, "How an Extraordinary Circle of Fossilists Discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin." I had known that the concept dinosaur was first formed in the early part of the 19th century, but I had not known the extent of the passions, egos, theories, and clashes with religion that went on in that time. At the beginning of the 19th century, Genesis ruled. The earth was 6,000 years old. Period. Scholarly interests in the earth sciences focused on the times before and after the flood (hence our wonderful word antediluvian).
This book details the persons, largely amateurs, who collected fossils and gradually built up a body of evidence that couldn't be denied. One of those was not an amateur, actually, but a professional bone hunter who collected and sold fossils for a living. This bone hunter worked under two heavy handicaps: low birth and the fact that she was a woman. As a result, she was frequently consulted, used as a source, and given no credit at all. Her name was Mary Anning, she was one of the most important figures in the development of paleontology as a science, and I bet you've never heard of her.
Another seminal figure, who's given less credit than he deserves is Charles Lyell, whose Principles of Geology is one of the most important books in the 19th century (Darwin took volume one with him on the Beagle). It may be that his influence was indirect, or that he was a geologist and not a fossil hunter, but he's one of the creators of modern science.
Readable, erudite, informing, a fascinating look at the development of a science.

2 comments:

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Thank you for this review and recommendation. It is actually one of my favorite periods of history. So very much happening. I am putting it on my reading list which has grown to the point I may need to blow some funds at Amazon.

BTW the fundamentalist churches still believe the earth is only 6000 years old and dinosaurs are just a hoax. Actually I had heard of Mary Anning as I had a rather enlightened anthropology teacher in college.

On both your houses said...

I'm so delighted that you've heard of Mary Anning. I am fairly backward myself, but I like being around enlightened people.
I know a couple of people who believe the earth is 6000 years old. These people believe that there were dinosaurs, but either believe that they lived in historical times, or that God deliberately stuck them in the fossil record as a test of faith.