International Dinosaur Discoveries
Famous Paleontologists Outside North America
Who was Gideon Mantell?
Gideon Mantell (1784–1856), an English country doctor and fossil collector, was the first to recognize certain fossils as giant reptiles. The well known story (but perhaps not completely true) is that Mantell’s wife, Mary Ann, found some fossilized teeth in rocks along the roadside while accompanying her husband on a house call. (Some people believe that Mantell actually found the fossils.) The rocks had come from the Bestede Quarry in Cuckfield, Sussex, England.
In 1822, Mantell’s examination of these teeth, and subsequent remains from the same area, led him to the first reconstruction of what is now known as a dinosaur. In 1825, a year after William Buckland’s published description of Megalosaurus, Mantell published his own description of this ancient reptile. He named it Iguanodon, or “iguana tooth,” because the teeth, though much larger, matched those of this modern lizard. Mantell subsequently used a pictorial representation of the Iguanodon on the coat of arms for his residence, Maidstone, in Kent, England. The town of Maidstone also has the Iguanodon embedded on its coat of arms.
Mantell was responsible for other fossil discoveries. And he scientifically described the first known dinosaur skin in 1852. This was from the forelimb of a Pelorosaurus becklesii.