It would be hard to think of a more overlooked person in the history of paleontology than Mary Anning, but in fact there was one who came painfully close. His name was Gideon Algernon Mantell and he was a country doctor in Sussex.
Mantell was a lanky assemblage of shortcomings—he was vain, self-absorbed, priggish, neglectful of his family—but never was there a more devoted amateur paleontologist. He was also lucky to have a devoted and observant wife. In 1822, while he was making a house call on a patient in rural Sussex, Mrs. Mantell went for a stroll down a nearby lane and in a pile of rubble that had been left to fill potholes she found a curious object—a curved brown stone, about the size of a small walnut.
Knowing her husband's interest in fossils, and thinking it might be one, she took it to him. Mantell could see at once it was a fossilized tooth, and after a little study became certain that it was from an animal that was herbivorous, reptilian, extremely large—tens of feet long—and from the Cretaceous period. He was right on all counts, but these were bold conclusions since nothing like it had been seen before or even imagined.