Lizards and Literalists

in The Earth on Show

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780226616681
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226616704 | DOI:
Lizards and Literalists

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This chapter considers the increasing freedom with which British writers on earth history exploited the spectacular potential of fossils to stage the world before man. The first part charts this movement by examining the work of two geologists of the new school, both peripheral to the Geological Society of London: Gideon Mantell and Robert Bakewell. In the late 1820s Mantell and Bakewell produced revised versions of older treatises, and in both cases, a new tone can be detected when their previous work is compared. But spectacle and confidence were not confined to the new geology. The second and third parts of the chapter show how the same rhetoric was seized on by several biblical-literalist writers in the late 1820s to popularize their own geologies, much to the dismay of the Geological Society's leading lights.

Keywords: earth history; fossils; geologists; Gideon Mantell; Robert Bakewell; biblical-literalist writers; Geological Society

Chapter.  17167 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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