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Bone Wars presents a fascinating cultural history of the early years of paleontology at the turn of the last century. With the help of contemporary newspaper stories, early scientific articles and essays, and letters found in scattered archives, Tom Rea re-creates a remarkable ...
Bone Wars presents a fascinating cultural history of the early years of paleontology at the turn of the last century. With the help of contemporary newspaper stories, early scientific articles and essays, and letters found in scattered archives, Tom Rea re-creates a remarkable story of hubris, hope, and late Victorian science.
Twenty years after E. D. Cope and O. C. Marsh were hunting frantically for any and all fossils they could find, a team of paleontologists, amateur bone hunters, and manual laborers discovered the most complete fossil of one of the largest dinosaurs discovered to date. Named Diplodocus carnegii in honor of Andrew Carnegie, the expedition's patron, it was eventually mounted and displayed in a dozen museums around the world and viewed by millions of people. It also fueled ongoing debates about what these beasts ate, how they walked, where they lived -- debates that continue today.
In revealing how a fossil unearthed in the badlands of Wyoming in 1899 helped give birth to the public's ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, Rea takes us through the byzantine corridors of Wyoming politics, examines the causes and consequences of Carnegie's philanthropy, and shows how natural history museums became dinosaur-centered shrines to science. He touches on the rebuilding of the Union Pacific Railroad, the notorious Wilcox train robbery, Pittsburgh's polluted water supply, European politics, and the golden age of Antarctic exploration. He also traces changes in scientific thought that have led to our current opinions of how the giant sauropods, including Diplodocus, lived.
Rea focuses on five men: Wyoming fossil hunter Bill Reed, who worked with the famous Marsh, but was more interested in making a living than in science; headstrong paleontologist Jacob Wortman, boss of the expedition that discovered Mr. Carnegie's dinosaur; John Bell Hatcher, the brilliant paleontologist whose theories on continental land connections were decades ahead of their time; William Holland, imperious director of the recently founded Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh; and Carnegie himself, smitten with the colossal animals after reading a newspaper story in the New York Journal and Advertiser.
What emerges is the picture of an era reminiscent of today: technology advancing by leaps and bounds; the press happy to sensationalize anything; huge amounts of capital ending up in the hands of a small number of people; and some devoted individuals placing honest research above personal gain.
|2||The freehearted frontier hunter||12|
|3||The most colossal animal||29|
|4||Culture in the iron city||42|
|5||A lizard in Wyoming politics||52|
|6||Uncle Sam's land||59|
|7||Hewn into fragments||68|
|8||Some good luck at last||87|
|9||The ample fossil fields||99|
|10||Noble champions of truth||118|
|12||No more Reeds, no more Wortmans||135|
|14||When the flag drops||158|
|15||Heads and tails||179|