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Portrait of Gideon Algernon Mantell (1790-1852)

Gideon Mantell   

Portrait in oils of Gideon Algernon Mantell, by unknown artist, c.1845. (GSL/POR/10) 

Gideon Mantell was a Sussex born surgeon who practised in his birth town of Lewes, later moving to Brighton, then finally London.  However Mantell is probably best known for his early dinosaur discoveries, the Iguanodon being his most famous.  This giant, herbivorous reptile was initially identified from only its teeth which were found in Tilgate Forest, near Cuckfield, Sussex, in 1825.  

Mantell chalk pit
Illustration, engraved by Mantell's wife Mary presumably showing him at work in a Chalk pit in Southeram, near Lewes. From Mantell's book 'The fossils of the South Downs; or Illustrations of the geology of Sussex' (1822).

Most of Mantell’s geological research was conducted in the Sussex area, and his uncanny ability to uncover the fossilised remains of new species of reptiles, fishes, invertebrates and plants led to his nickname ‘Wizard of the Weald.’  

Depicted in the background of the portrait are two of Mantell’s most popular publications, 'The Wonders of Geology' (1838), and 'Medals of Creation' (1844).
He was elected a Member of the Geological Society on 15 May 1818 and served on the Society’s Council (1841-1844 and 1847-1852). Mantell received the second ever Wollaston Medal, still our highest honour, in 1835.