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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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Lizards and Literalists

Lizards and Literalists

(p.117) 3 Lizards and Literalists
The Earth on Show
University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers the increasing freedom with which British writers on earth history exploited the spectacular potential of fossils to stage the world before man. The first part charts this movement by examining the work of two geologists of the new school, both peripheral to the Geological Society of London: Gideon Mantell and Robert Bakewell. In the late 1820s Mantell and Bakewell produced revised versions of older treatises, and in both cases, a new tone can be detected when their previous work is compared. But spectacle and confidence were not confined to the new geology. The second and third parts of the chapter show how the same rhetoric was seized on by several biblical-literalist writers in the late 1820s to popularize their own geologies, much to the dismay of the Geological Society's leading lights.

Keywords:   earth history, fossils, geologists, Gideon Mantell, Robert Bakewell, biblical-literalist writers, Geological Society

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