House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth

House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth

by Richard Conniff


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A gripping tale of 150 years of scientific adventure, research, and discovery at the Yale Peabody Museum

This fascinating book tells the story of how one museum changed ideas about dinosaurs, dynasties, and even the story of life on earth. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, now celebrating its 150th anniversary, has remade the way we see the world. Delving into the museum’s storied and colorful past, award-winning author Richard Conniff introduces a cast of bold explorers, roughneck bone hunters, and visionary scientists. Some became famous for wresting Brontosaurus, Triceratops, and other dinosaurs from the earth, others pioneered the introduction of science education in North America, and still others rediscovered the long-buried glory of Machu Picchu.
In this lively tale of events, achievements, and scandals from throughout the museum’s history. Readers will encounter renowned paleontologist O. C. Marsh who engaged in ferocious combat with his “Bone Wars” rival Edward Drinker Cope, as well as dozens of other intriguing characters. Nearly 100 color images portray important figures in the Peabody’s history and special objects from the museum’s 13-million-item collections. For anyone with an interest in exploring, understanding, and protecting the natural world, this book will deliver abundant delights.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300226928
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/25/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 674,955
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Richard Conniff is a prize-winning science writer and journalist and the author of nine books including The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth. He lives in Old Lyme, CT.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Hunting for Truffles ix

1 A West That Was Actually Wild 1

2 The Patriarch 9

3 The Education of O. C. Marsh 22

4 The Wooing of George Peabody 28

5 Rock Render 39

6 A Rumor of War 51

7 The Marsh Expeditions 58

8 Professor M on the Warpath 73

9 The Year of Enormous Dinosaurs 82

10 Fossils, Buffalo, and the Birth of American Conservation 95

11 A Building of Their Own 105

12 In the Shadow of O. C Marsh 113

13 The Prince of Bone Hunters 127

14 Bone Wars 136

15 Trilobite Magic and Cycad Obsessions 146

16 Mapping Ancient Worlds 159

17 A City Raised Like a Chalice 172

18 Teaching Evolution 184

19 The Rise of Modern Ecology 199

20 The Beauty of the Beasts 208

21 The Art of Being Invisible 218

22 Into the Unmapped World 226

23 Zoology in the Time of Geneticists 243

24 The Man Who Saved Dinosaurs 266

Epilogue 274

The Peabody's Scientists 281

Acknowledgments 291

Notes 293

Illustration Credits 317

Index 323


What do you hope readers will learn from their encounter with your book?
I want readers to come away feeling that this is a ripping good yarn of exploration, with big engaging characters taking enormous risks and bringing back great discoveries that make us think in new ways about the world.
If you were to embark on an expedition with one of the scientists you discuss, who would that be?
It would be the 1870 expedition by paleontologist O. C. Marsh and a dozen Yale students into an American West that was still wild, still home to millions of bison, still under the control of Native American tribes. That expedition launched Marsh’s remarkable career, bringing to life unimaginable creatures from lost worlds. And it opened the eyes of a bottom-of-the-class Yale graduate named George Bird Grinnell, who went on to become one of the most influential figures in the American conservation movement, a savior of the bison, and an anthropologist of vanishing tribal cultures.
Which scientists intrigued or surprised you the most?
James Dwight Dana and his poignant struggle to reconcile his commitment to science with his deep religious faith. Dana was among the first people to whom Darwin confided about his work on the theory of evolution by natural selection. (“I groan when I make such a confession,” he wrote to Dana.) Dana’s struggle took place as the scientists of the Peabody Museum were delivering to his doorstep convincing fossil evidence.

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