Mary Ann Mantell

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Mary Ann Mantell
Portrait of Mary Ann Mantell.jpg
Occupation palaeontologist
Known for Discovering Iguanodon
Spouse(s) Gideon Mantell
Relatives Walter Mantell (son)

Mary Ann Mantell (née Woodhouse; 1799 – 1847[1] or 9 April 1795 – c. 1855[2]) is credited with the discovery of the first fossils of Iguanodon,[1] and provided several pen and ink sketches of the fossils for her husband, Gideon Mantell's, scientific description of Iguanodon.[3]

Iguanodon discovery

Illustration from the book The Fossils of the South Downs, engraved by Mary Ann Mantell from sketches by Gideon Mantell. The book describes geological formations and fossils found in the South Downs of Sussex, England. Shelfmark: OUM: 1 d. 67. This is plate V, showing strata between Brighton and Rotterdean, strata to the West of Rotterdean, and the landing place at Rotterdean.

In 1822, while Mary Ann Mantell was accompanying her husband to Surrey as he was visiting a patient, she discovered large tooth-shaped fossils on the side of the road. She presented these fossils to him. Her husband then proceeded to send Mary’s findings to Georges Cuvier[4][better source needed], who then initially thought the teeth that were sent to him were from a rhinoceros.[5][3] Due to his excitement of her findings he launched an excavation of the Tilgate Forest, which resulted in the discovery of the herbivorous reptile, the Iguanodon.[3][6]

Mary Ann Mantell illustrated many of the fossils, that were then used in her husband's scientific publication called Illustrations of the Geology of Sussex published in 1827, in which he describes the Iguanodon, thus named due to its likeness to the modern day Iguana.[3][6]

Family life

Mary Ann Woodhouse married Gideon Mantell in 1816 and lived with him in Lewes. She accompanied Mantell on his fossil collection trips.[2] Although the couple became a coherent research team, their personal lives suffered and the pair became increasingly distant causing their marriage to end in divorce. They had three children together, including prominent New Zealand scientist and politician Walter Mantell.[2] Gideon was the primary caretaker of the children after the divorce was finalized; he died in 1852 of an opium overdose.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Q. Iguanodon teeth". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Joy Dorothy Harvey (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z. Taylor & Francis. p. 837. ISBN 041592040X.
  3. ^ a b c d "Dinosaur History". Brooklyn College City University of New York. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  4. ^ Georges Cuvier
  5. ^ BUREK, C. V. & HIGGS, B. (eds) The Role of Women in the History of Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 281, 1–8. DOI: 10.1144/SP281.1.
  6. ^ a b Mantell, Gideon (1827). Illustrations of the Geology of Sussex. London: Lupton Relfe. pp. 71–78 – via Books.Google.
  7. ^ BUREK, C. V. & HIGGS, B. (eds) The Role of Women in the History of Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 281, 1–8. DOI: 10.1144/SP281.1.
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