Gideon Mantell

gideon mantell Iguanodon

Gideon Algernon Mantell  (3 February 1790 – 10 November 1852) was an English obstetrician, geologist and palaeontologist. His attempts to reconstruct the structure and life of Iguanodon began the scientific study of dinosaurs: in 1822 he was responsible for the discovery (and the eventual identification) of the first fossil teeth, and later much of the skeleton, of Iguanodon. Mantell’s work on the Cretaceous of southern England was also important.

In 1833, Mantell relocated to Brighton but his medical practice suffered. He was almost rendered destitute, but for the town’s council who promptly transformed his house into a museum. There he gave a series of lectures that were published in 1838 with the title The wonders of geology, or, A familiar exposition of geological phenomena: being the substance of a course of lectures delivered at Brighton.The museum in Brighton ultimately failed as a result of Mantell’s habit of waiving the entrance fee. Financially destitute, Mantell offered to sell the entire collection to the British Museum in 1838 for £5,000, accepting the counter-offer of £4,000. He moved to Clapham Common in South London, where he continued his work as a doctor.

In 1841 Mantell was the victim of a terrible carriage accident on Clapham Common. Somehow he fell from his seat, became entangled in the reins and was dragged across the ground. Mantell suffered a debilitating spinal injury. Despite being bent, crippled and in constant pain, he continued to work with fossilised reptiles and published a number of scientific books and papers until his death. He moved to Pimlico in 1844 and began to take opium, as a painkiller, in 1845. On 10 November 1852, Mantell took an overdose of opium and later lapsed into a coma.