Dinosaurs at the Dinner Party: How an Eccentric Group of Victorians Discovered Prehistoric Creatures and Accidentally Upended the World (Hardcover)

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From the bestselling author of The Clockwork Universe and The Writing of the Gods, a historical adventure story about the eccentric Victorians who discovered dinosaur bones, leading to a whole new understanding of human history.

In the early 1800s the world was a safe and cozy place. But then a twelve-year-old farm boy in Massachusetts stumbled on a row of fossilized three-toed footprints the size of dinner plates—the first dinosaur tracks ever found. Soon, in England, Victorians unearthed enormous bones—bones that reached as high as a man’s head. No one had ever seen such things. Outside of myths and fairy tales, no one had even imagined that creatures like three-toed giants had once lumbered across the land. And if anyone had somehow conjured up such a scene, they would never have imagined that all those animals could have vanished, hundreds of millions years ago. The thought of sudden, arbitrary disappearance from life was unnerving and forced the Victorians to rethink everything they knew about the world.

Now, in Dinosaurs at the Dinner Party, celebrated storyteller and historian Edward Dolnick leads us through a compelling true adventure as the paleontologists of the first half of the 19th century puzzled their way through the fossil record to create the story of dinosaurs we know today. The tale begins with Mary Anning, a poor, uneducated woman who had a sixth sense for finding fossils buried deep inside cliffs; and moves to a brilliant, eccentric geologist named William Buckland, a kind of Doctor Doolittle on a mission to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom; and then on to Richard Owen, the most respected and the most despised scientist of his generation.

Entertaining, erudite, and featuring an unconventional cast of characters, Dinosaurs at the Dinner Party tells the story of how the accidental discovery of prehistoric creatures upended humanity’s understanding of the world and their place in it, and how a group of paleontologists worked to bring it back into focus again.

About the Author

Edward Dolnick is the author of Dinosaurs at the Dinner Party, The Writing of the GodsThe Clockwork UniverseThe Forger’s Spell, and the Edgar Award–winning The Rescue Artist, among other books. A former chief science writer at The Boston Globe, he has written for The AtlanticThe New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He lives with his wife near Washington, DC.

Praise For…

“A masterful and enormously entertaining book. . . . [Makes] history come vibrantly alive." —Booklist

“[An] exuberant tale . . . intriguing . . . a delightful, engrossing confluence of Victorian science and history.” —Kirkus Reviews

"With wit, warmth, and humor, Edward Dolnick immerses us in one of the most exhilarating times in the history of science: when a motley crew of professors, naturalists, preachers, and bone hunters discovered the existence of dinosaurs. Written like an adventure novel but fashioned with historical rigor, Dinosaurs at the Dinner Party is a gripping story of how we came to understand that the Earth was old and once populated by ancient beasts." —Steve Brusatte, professor and paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and New York Times bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

"What a brilliant read. Dolnick elegantly sketches out the long-ago lives of the fossil hunters and Deep Time detectives whose labors will fuel scientific inquiry and the human imagination for as long as humanity manages to last. Dolnick's enthusiasm and respect for his evocative subject shows on every page. He leaves readers both marveling at the known history of life on Earth and perhaps pondering their own place within it. I admired every bit of this book." —Paige Williams, New Yorker staff writer and author of The Dinosaur Artist

“As Edward Dolnick reminds us in this treat of a book, the legacy of the dinosaurs is more than the bones exhumed from the rock. Dinosaurs and many other creatures in the fossil menagerie forced us to fundamentally rethink ourselves and our role in life's ever-unfolding story.” —Riley Black, author of The Last Days of the Dinosaurs and When the Earth Was Green

"Dolnick tells the tale of the first discoveries of dinosaurs and other extinct monsters, and the founding of the new science of geology, with enthusiasm and clarity. He shows how early peoples struggled to understand fossils, and then the shocking understanding 200 years ago that the Earth had once been populated by creatures unlike anything now living." —Michael J. Benton, author of Dinosaurs Rediscovered and Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology, University of Bristol
Product Details
ISBN: 9781982199616
ISBN-10: 198219961X
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 6th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English