From the bestselling author of The Clockwork Universe and The Writing of the Gods, a historical adventure story about the eccentric Victorians who discovered dinosaur bones, leading to a whole new understanding of human history.
DINOSAURS AT THE DINNER PARTY
How An Eccentric Group of Victorians Discovered Prehistoric Creatures and Accidentally Upended The World
by Edward Dolnick
Scribner, August 2024
(via Sterling Lord Literistic)
In the early 1800s the world was a safe and cozy place. But then a twelve-year-old farm boy in Massachusetts stumbled on a row of fossilized three-toed footprints the size of dinner plates—the first dinosaur tracks ever found. Soon, in England, Victorians unearthed enormous bones—bones that reached as high as a man’s head. Outside of myths and fairy tales, no one had even imagined that creatures like three-toed giants had once lumbered across the land. And if anyone had somehow conjured up such a scene, they would never have imagined that all those animals could have vanished, hundreds of millions years ago. The thought of sudden, arbitrary disappearance from life was unnerving and forced the Victorians to rethink everything they knew about the world.
In DINOSAURS AT THE DINNER PARTY, celebrated storyteller and historian Edward Dolnick leads us through a compelling true adventure as the paleontologists of the first half of the 19th century puzzled their way through the fossil record to create the story of dinosaurs we know today. The tale begins with Mary Anning, a poor, uneducated woman who had a sixth sense for finding fossils buried deep inside cliffs; and moves to a brilliant, eccentric geologist named William Buckland, a kind of Doctor Doolittle on a mission to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom; and then on to Richard Owen, the most respected and the most despised scientist of his generation.
Entertaining, erudite, and featuring an unconventional cast of characters, DINOSAURS AT THE DINNER PARTY tells the story of how the accidental discovery of prehistoric creatures upended humanity’s understanding of the world and their place in it, and how a group of paleontologists worked to bring it back into focus again.
Edward Dolnick is the author of The Writing of the Gods, The Clockwork Universe, The Forger’s Spell, and the Edgar Award–winning The Rescue Artist, among other books. A former chief science writer at The Boston Globe, he has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He lives with his wife near Washington, DC.