Revealed: the surprising scientific passion of Charles Dickens

New exhibition shows how the writer used his medical knowledge to help change Victorian attitudes

In the opening paragraph of his novel Bleak House, Charles Dickens envisages meeting “a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill”. It is a startling image, one that depicts Victorian London as a place of mud, corruption and disease.

Prehistoric concerns and scientific interests are not normally connected with this author, who is known best for his depictions of social injustice, eccentric characters and occasional bouts of sentimentality. Indeed, Dickens is generally thought today to have been suspicious of science.

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