Henry Gee

What Did the Iguanodon Ever Do for Us?

Dinomania: Why We Love, Fear and Are Utterly Enchanted by Dinosaurs


Reaktion Books 264pp £20 order from our bookshop

At not quite two years old, Offspring#1 knew the names of at least ten dinosaurs and could say words such as ‘tyrannosaurus’ and even ‘parasaurolophus’. This should not be a surprise. Most parents rapidly become familiar with palaeontology for the pre-potty-trained (it has to be said, though, that Offspring#2 managed to reach adulthood without ever going through a dinosaur phase).

At six years of age, Offspring#1 went on a primary school trip to a museum, where the curators were putting on a special Victorian Experience for the young visitors. That evening I asked Offspring#1 about their day at school, as I usually did, expecting the usual mumbled response of ‘boring’ or ‘I’ve forgotten’ before a change of subject. Not this time. Offspring#1 lit up, offering a breathless account of the desks that Victorian children had at school, what Victorian children wore, what they ate for lunch, the toys with which they passed their idle hours, and much more. The seemingly endless tale, however, came to an abrupt halt. ‘Dad,’ asked Offspring#1, ‘were the Victorians before or after the dinosaurs?’

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