February 3, 1790 (a Wednesday)

Illustration of fossil Iguanodon teeth with a modern iguana jaw from Mantell’s 1825 paper describing Iguanodon.

On this date, the British physician, geologist, and paleontologist Gideon Algernon Mantell was born. He discovered 4 of the 5 genera of dinosaurs known during his time.

Mantell’s life-long hobby was all-consuming. While walking with his wife in 1822, he discovered fossils that he identified as teeth. When he saw the connection with teeth of the present lizard, the iguana, in 1825, he named the animal the Iguanadon (“fossil teeth”). Subsequently, he made additional finds of fossil bones of other large animals which he described accurately: the Hylaeosaurus, Pelorosaurus, and Regnosaurus. His contemporary, paleontologist Sir Richard Owen, coined the word dinosaur (“terrible lizards”). Mantell’s books include Medals of Creation (1844).

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One response to “February 3, 1790 (a Wednesday)

  1. Happy birthday Gideon! By chance, well sort of by chance, I had the opportunity to flick through the Mantellian Museum visitor book which ended up in an archive here in New Zealand.

    The famous tooth is also in New Zealand, housed in Te Papa, our national museum. Although last time I checked it wasn’t on display. Gideon’s son Walter immigrated here – which is how his collection, or at least some of it, ended up on the other side of the world.

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