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The Earth on ShowFossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856$
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Ralph O'Connor

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226616681

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226616704.001.0001

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Enter the Mammoth

Enter the Mammoth

(p.31) 1 Enter the Mammoth
The Earth on Show
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses how showmanship underpinned geology's public appeal in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, whipped up in guidebooks such as Peale's Historical Disquisition that presented fossils as sublime relics of a legendary past. Practicing geologists may have repudiated such rhetoric as a rule, but even they had their uses for it when promoting their science as worth the attention of polite society. This is illustrated in the final section of the chapter, which turns to the English translation of a work by Cuvier in which the grand historical vistas of Enlightenment “theories of the earth” were recast in a new and approved guise.

Keywords:   showmanship, geology, geologists, science, Cuvier

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