Gideon Mantell - the first dinosaur hunter
In 1822 Gideon Mantell, a doctor from Lewes, East Sussex, described a fossil tooth which his wife had found by the side of the road in Cuckfield, West Sussex. This tooth was the first dinosaur fossil in the world ever to be identified. For the very first time people began to realise that creatures as large as dinosaurs had once existed.
Gideon Mantell went on to search for, discover and identify many other dinosaur remains.
1790 Born Gideon Algernon Mantell in Lewes, East Sussex, on 3rd February, the son of a shoemaker
1805 Apprenticed to James Moore, surgeon in Lewes 1811 Gained diploma for MRCS
1813 Published in Sussex Advertiser ‘Geology of the Environs of Lewes’
1814 First published geological paper
1816 Married Mary Ann Woodhouse. Appointed military surgeon at the Royal Artillery Hospital, Ringmer, Lewes. Purchased practice of James Moore at Lewes for £95 1818 Purchased 2 houses at Castle Place, Lewes. Published A Sketch of the Geological Structure of the South-eastern part of Sussex. Birth of his first child, Ellen Maria, on 30th May
1820 Birth of his second child, Walter, March 11th
1822 Published The Fossils of the South Downs.Discovery of Iguanodon tooth by Mary Ann. Birth of third child, Hannah, on November 24th
1825 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 28th October
1827 Published Illustrations of the Geology of Sussex: The Fossils of Tilgate Forest. Published Observations on the Medical Evidence necessary to prove the presence of Arsenic in the Human body. Birth of his fourth child, Reginald, August 11th
1831 Published The Age of Reptiles
1833 Published The Geology of South-East England. Moved to 20, The Steyne,Brighton. Opened his house as a Fossil Museum - the first in Britain.
1834 Discovery of the Maidstone Iguanodon
1836 Published Thoughts on a Pebble, dedicated to his youngest son Richard
1837 His daughter Hannah falls ill in April 1838 Very ill - ‘much broken in health and spirits’. Wrote to Natural History Museum, offering his entire collection for £5000. Agreed purchase for £4000. Moved to London and took over practice at Clapham Common
1840 His daughter Hannah died in March, aged 18
1841 Involved in carriage accident. Afterwards he was always subjected to persistent pain. His whole attitude to life changed - he became morose and dispirited. Published 'On the Fossil Remains of Turtles, discovered in the Chalk Formation of the South-East of England'.
1844 Left Clapham Common and moved to Pimlico
1845 Began taking opium to alleviate his pain
1847 Published Geological Excursion around the Isle of Wight
1850 Published A Pictorial Atlas of Fossil Remains
1851 Published Petrifications and their Teachings
1852 ‘swallowing 32 times the maximum dose’... of opium! Lapsed into unconsciousness on 10th November, and died during the afternoon. Purchase of remainder of his collection by Natural History Museum - they had now received over 25000 of his specimens. Part of his diseased spine remains pickled on a shelf in the Royal College of Surgeons! He is buried in West Norwood cemetery. (more details...)
2000 The Mantell Monument is unveiled at Whiteman's Green, Cuckfield, in commemoration of Mantell's discovery in 1825.
Mantell's house in Lewes, East Sussex