Show Me The Bone: Reconstructing Prehistoric Monsters In Nineteenth-century Britain And America

Hardcover | April 21, 2016

byGowan Dawson

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Nineteenth-century paleontologists boasted that, shown a single bone, they could identify or even reconstruct the extinct creature it came from with infallible certainty—“Show me the bone, and I will describe the animal!” Paleontologists such as Georges Cuvier and Richard Owen were heralded as scientific virtuosos, sometimes even veritable wizards, capable of resurrecting the denizens of an ancient past from a mere glance at a fragmentary bone. Such extraordinary feats of predictive reasoning relied on the law of correlation, which proposed that each element of an animal corresponds mutually with each of the others, so that a carnivorous tooth must be accompanied by a certain kind of jawbone, neck, stomach, limbs, and feet.
 
Show Me the Bone tells the story of the rise and fall of this famous claim, tracing its fortunes from Europe to America and showing how it persisted in popular science and literature and shaped the practices of paleontologists long after the method on which it was based had been refuted. In so doing, Gowan Dawson reveals how decisively the practices of the scientific elite were—and still are—shaped by their interactions with the general public.

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Nineteenth-century paleontologists boasted that, shown a single bone, they could identify or even reconstruct the extinct creature it came from with infallible certainty—“Show me the bone, and I will describe the animal!” Paleontologists such as Georges Cuvier and Richard Owen were heralded as scientific virtuosos, sometimes even verit...

Gowan Dawson is professor of Victorian literature and culture at the University of Leicester. He is coeditor of Victorian Scientific Naturalism, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and is the author of Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:480 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:April 21, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022633273X

ISBN - 13:9780226332734

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Cuvier’s Law of Correlation

Part I Arrival, 1795–1839: Translations and Appropriations
1 Correlation Crosses the Channel
2 Fragments of Design

Part II Triumph, 1839–54: Bones, Serials, and Models
3 Discovering the Dinornis
4 Paleontology in Parts
5 Correlation at the Crystal Palace

Part III Overthrow, 1854–62: Scientific Naturalists, Popularizers, and Cannibals
6 Correlation under Siege
7 The Problems of Popularization
8 Unfortunate Allies

Part IV Afterlife, 1862–1917: Missing Links and Hidden Clues
9 Evolutionary Modifications
10 Prophecies of the Past

Epilogue: Ghosts of Correlation

Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“With Show Me the Bone, Dawson has written an interesting—at times brilliant!—book that presents a truly impressive wealth of research, makes a cogent argument, and features refreshingly straight-forward, lucid prose throughout. Show Me the Bone follows Cuvier’s famous principle of correlation as it traveled from continental Europe to the British Isles. Along the way, Dawson pays particular attention to how naturalists discussed and disseminated their ideas not just in scholarly meetings and specialist publications, but also popular lectures and the commercial press. Show Me the Bone will be sure to find an audience not only among historians of the earth sciences, but also among anyone interested in the nexus of science and literature or the history of science popularization.”