The Dragon Seekers: How an Extraodinary Circle of Fossilists Discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin

The Dragon Seekers

By Christopher McGowan


Against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, an extraordinary circle of fossilists struggled to make sense of a mysterious, prehistoric world–a world they had to piece together from the fossilized and often fragmentary remains of animals never before seen. In this transporting, seamlessly written book, Christopher McGowan takes us back to a time when geology and paleontology were as young and vibrant as genetic engineering is today. The nineteenth-century pioneers of these new disciplines were an eccentric lot, from different social classes and sexes, with a range of motivations in fossil hunting. These “Dragon Seekers” sought to persuade a populace raised on a literal interpretation of Genesis that the ground they walked was once a very frightening and unfamiliar place. A sweeping narrative history, The Dragon Seekers shows how these remarkable characters forever changed our interpretation of the world and its inhabitants.


This is a history of how Paleontology came to be. It is told through correspondence and archives from early fossil hunters, naturalists, geologists and other like minded individuals that had an interest in these newly discovered creatures. It also discusses how the science community and non-science community reacted to new information coming to light.

I thought that this book would have more about Mary Anning than it did, but she is referenced as a peripheral as she was in real life. There is a chapter about her in the beginning and any contact she had with other scientists is laced all through. I think it is meant as a framework to the book. There is apparently not that much information that is available on her.

While there is a fair amount of technical information about the fossils found and the theories that were being formed in the light of these discoveries, they are all given in a clear concise manner. The technical information is balanced well with vivid stories of the fossil hunters finding their way in society. This is a great beginners book for anyone interested in evolution, Paleontology, or Geology.