The early fossilists were the extraordinary group of individuals who first identified the dinosaurs and whose discoveries helped pave the way for Darwin and the publication of "The Origin of Species" in 1859. This text chronicles the story of this circle of English men and - famously - one woman, whose palaeontological findings transformed people's perceptions of geological history and the remote past. This intriguing and eccentric group of characters includes Mary Anning, an uneducated woman who became one of the most successful fossil collectors of all time; Giles Hawkings, the black sheep of palaeontology; and the mentally unstable William Buckland, discoverer of the Megalosaurus, the world's first dinosaur. Theirs is an inspiring story that begins with the discovery of a few random bones and leads up to the recognition that giant lizards once roamed and dominated the earth. Where previous books have focused on individual fossilists, this book treats them as a distinct group, charting their rivalries alongside their discoveries.
Christopher McGowan is Professor of Zoology at the University of Toronto and curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum.