Ever wonder how people figured out there used to be such things as dinosaurs? Curious about how scientists learned to reconstruct fossil skeletons? The knowledge we take for granted today was slow in coming, and along the way, scientists and scholars had some weird ideas.

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Timeline Tidbits

c.860-Science writer Al Jahiz describes some 350 animal varieties in his Book of Animals, in which he mentions their "struggle for existence." Later historians will assert that this is an early exposition of evolutionary theory.

1668-Natural historian John Somner finds woolly rhino teeth near Canterbury in Kent, and figures they might be the remains of a sea monster. As he will die before he can publish his conclusions, his brother William will print his article "A Brief Relation of Some Strange Bones There Lately Digged Up In Some Grounds of Mr. John Somner."

1824-William Buckland publishes Notice on the Megalosaurus ("giant lizard"), the first dinosaur fossil to be described and named, although the term "dinosaur" doesn't yet exist. Buckland also announces the discovery of the first fossil mammal from the Mesozoic.

1825-Gideon Mantell publishes Notice on the Iguanodon, the second description of a dinosaur and the first description of an herbivorous fossil reptile.

Things you should know about this site

This is not a comprehensive history of paleontology or biology, nor is it the result of systematic research. It's not the work of a professional scientist, educator or historian. It's just an eclectic collection of old illustrations and information.

Although this site focuses more on the history of science than on evolution, it treats evolution as a scientific fact, not "just a theory."