The Anglo/ US link

Mantell had a long (over 20 years) correspondence with American Benjamin Silliman (1779— 1864), geologist and chemist who founded the American Journal of Science. For many years known simply as Silliman’s Journal, an important outlet for American scientific papers, still exists and is now devoted to geology alone. Silliman taught at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. USA 1802 -1853 and developed his thoughts on geology and deep time through their letters.

Mantell and Silliman eventually met as “old familiar friends” in 1851 and Mantell took him to the Isle of Wight, they took a stroll around Lewes and also visited the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition and the British Museum. They parted on 31 August, for ever and Mantell died the following year.


Silliman pictured here around the time of his visit wrote up his trip in A Visit to Europe in 1851 (2 vols USA 1853)

Their correspondence is lodged at Alexander Turnbull Library in New Zealand [location] along with much of Mantell’s papers on his death in 1852; sent there by his younger son Reginald for the safekeeping of older son Walter who had emigrated there.

The early fossilised discoveries made by Mantell,  William Buckland, William Conybeare and of course Mary Anning’s Ichthyosaurs were all made in the UK. The stories of these early palaeontologists are told in the Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury London; Fourth Estate, 2000 and in The Dragon Seekers by Christopher McGowan Abacus 2003 amongst others.

The creation of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs however led on to more discoveries and attempts at depictions of what they would have looked like in Belgium and the USA. The story of these further developments are described in this blog here  The Transatlantic Connection: Dinosaurs after the Crystal Palace by Richard Fallon.



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