Wallace explores in exciting detail the rivalry between the paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Onthniel Charles Marsh--19th-century America's major scientific feud. Cope and Marsh independently discovered hundreds of dinosaur fossils on the high plains when the Indian wars were in full swing.
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(209mm x 140mm x 24mm)
Houghton Mifflin (Trade)
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US Kirkus Review »
A fine and dramatic rendering of the Marsh-Cope paleontological imbroglio, played out in the pages of the New York Herald, from Wallace (The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America, 1997, etc.). Professors O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope had been squabbling over their old bones for years before the Herald decided to inflate and sensationalize the feud in a bid to win their circulation war with the New York World. Both paleontologista were eminent in their own way: Marsh taught at Yale, advised presidenta, was a protege of congressmen, and had a sheaf of discoveries to his credit; Cope was the more imaginative, if more reckless, of the two, and had a equal number of superb fossil finds under his belt. At first, the rivalry was quaint: "The patrician Edward may have considered Marsh not quite a gentleman. The academic Othniel probably regarded Copeas not quite a professional." Wallace tells the story with enthusiasm and relish as the professorial beard-pulling got out of hand. Cope claimed Marsh stole fossils and ideas; Marsh counterclaimed Cope was a crank and a fool who put dinosaur heads on the wrong end of the beast. But when Marsh used his political power to freeze Cope out of the fossil lands, Cope engaged a hack to smear Marsh in the Herald. The paper's publisher, the nefarious James Gordon Bennett Jr., played the scientists like stringed instruments until both crashed in an embarrassment of accusations. More's the pity, as Wallace notes, as their work demonstrating "evolutionary transitions linking mammalian humanity to the transmutational continuum" was overshadowed, and the public feud "smashed John Wesley Powell's farsighted attempt to develop the West in sustainable fashion," as Powell's (the first chief of the US Geographical Survey) reputation was severely damaged in the Herald's pages. An ugly little episode that typified "ah age so greedy that men fought over petrified bones." (Kirkus Reviews)
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