Anatomy Museum & Lecture Theatre
Join us for the launch of Chris Manias, The Age of Mammals: Nature, Development and Paleontology in the Long Nineteenth Century (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023)
If you would like to attend, please sign-up at the following EventBrite link:
About the book
When people today hear ‘paleontology,’ they immediately think of dinosaurs. But for much of the history of the discipline, dramatic demonstrations of the history of life focused on the developmental history of mammals. The Age of Mammals examines how nineteenth-century scholars, writers, artists, and public audiences understood the animals they regarded as being at the summit of life. For them, mammals were crucial for understanding the formation (and possibly the future) of the natural world. Yet, as Chris Manias reveals, this combined with more troubling notions: that seemingly promising creatures had been swept aside in the ‘struggle for life,’ or that modern biodiversity was impoverished compared to previous eras.
Why some prehistoric creatures, such as the saber-toothed cat and ground sloth, had become extinct, while others seemed to have been the ancestors of familiar animals like elephants and horses, was a question loaded with cultural assumptions, ambiguity, and trepidation. How humans related to deep developmental processes, and whether ‘the Age of Man’ was qualitatively different from the Age of Mammals, led to reflections on humanity’s place within the natural world. With this book, Manias considers the cultural resonance of mammal paleontology from an international perspective—how reconstructions of the deep past of fossil mammals across the world conditioned new understandings of nature and the current environment.
The event will feature
– Responses to the book, from:
- Dr. Ilja Nieuwland (Huygens Institute), historian of science. Author of American Dinosaur Abroad: A Cultural History of Carnegie’s Plaster Diplodocus (2019)
- Dr. Elsa Panciroli (Oxford University Museum of Natural History), palaeontologist, science communicator, and writer. Author of Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution (2020) and The Earth: A Biography of Life (2022)
– And stalls and exhibits on the cultural significance of fossil mammals, in history and in the present. These will include:
- Dr. Mark Witton, exhibiting modern palaeoart of extinct mammals and other organisms.
- The Friends of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, with material including relating to the Beyond the Dinosaurs project and the restoration of Palaeotherium magnum.
- The remains of a cast of the skull of Hydrarchos harlani, courtesy of Dr. Nieuwland.
Copies of the book, as well as artwork and material from the other contributors, will be available for sale (cash only). The book will be on sale for £40 (so 20% discount on the cover price). If physical copies sell out at the launch, you will be able to pick up a voucher code to order the book at the same discount.
Exact directions to the venue, and a final programme, will be sent to all attendees at least 2 days before the event.