Dinosaur Doctor:the life and work of Gideon Mantell

A new book of Mantell’s life and work has been produced by Edmund Critchley. This book focuses less on his fossil finds and geological work and more on his medical skills and his life as a doctor. Mantell’s understanding of anatomy helped him make sense of the giant bones he was unearthing.

The book gives us a detailed description of Gideon’s early learning and medical training, placed within Lewes’ dissenting  tradition. This was due to the nonconformist leanings of his Methodist father which disallowed access to the grammar school in the town.  It also covers his time learning anatomy and developing his skills as a doctor with Dr Moore in the town and the famous Dr Abernethy in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

The book has a whole chapter on Mantell’s own health and the story of how his spine came to be pickled in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, now lost. Critchley comes to the conclusion based on his diary entries that Gideon’s own medical problems may have have been due to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

There are a few factual errors in the book, eg saying that he had moved to Clapton rather than Clapham for example.  However Critchley’s own medical background as a consultant neurologist, gives us a new take on Mantell’s life and work.

Copies of the book can be bought at the bookshop in the Barbican by the Castle or direct from the Amberley Press.

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