Read The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age by David Rains Wallace Online


When dinosaur fossils were first discovered in the Wild West, they sparked one of the greatest scientific battles in American history. Over the past century it's been known by many names -- the Bone War, the Fossil Feud -- but the tragic story of the conflict between two leading paleontologists of the Gilded Age remains a prophetic tale of the conquest of the West, as wellWhen dinosaur fossils were first discovered in the Wild West, they sparked one of the greatest scientific battles in American history. Over the past century it's been known by many names -- the Bone War, the Fossil Feud -- but the tragic story of the conflict between two leading paleontologists of the Gilded Age remains a prophetic tale of the conquest of the West, as well as a watershed event in science. Edward Drinker Cope was a Philadelphia Quaker from a wealthy family, an old-fashioned naturalist in the Jeffersonian tradition. Othniel Charles Marsh, a farm boy who had risen to a Yale professorship, was the model of a modern scientific entrepreneur. Opposites in personality and background as well as in political orientation and scientific beliefs, they fought over fossils as bitterly as other men fought over gold. With Indian wars swirling around them, they conducted their own personal warfare, staking out territories, employing scouts, troops, and spies. When James Gordon Bennett, the sociopathic publisher of the New York Herald, got wind of their feud, he stirred up an inferno that destroyed the lives of both men and scarred the reputations of many others, including John Wesley Powell, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey. In the aftermath, Powell's environmentally progressive ideas for limiting settlement of the West lost out to his opponents' laissez-faire boosterism, and the repercussions of the Bone War linger in many of the conflicts that rend the country today....

Title : The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age
Author :
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ISBN : 9780395850893
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age Reviews

  • Thomas Holbrook
    2019-05-12 14:35

    In preparation for an adventure in American Paleontology, this book was suggested to me as a way of gaining a broader understanding of that discipline’s start. I had recently read Url Lanham’s The Bone Hunters so I was familiar with the subject matter sufficiently to be familiar with the major players (Edward Drinker Cope - “EDC”) and Othniel Charles Marsh – “OCM”) of the founding and development of American Paleontology. These two giants of the field are credited with finding, naming and publishing the majority of the information regarding dinosaur fossils found in the US from the 1850’s – the early Twentieth Century. Their work was so important and groundbreaking that much of their research is the standard in the field today. What is also known of these two scientific pioneers is their years-long feud. Instead of cooperating toward advancement of a subject they both loved, they set themselves at odds over who would get the credit for what discovery. In reading TBH, I was struck by how a dusty, technical, largely dull (initially) academic endeavor could have become so widely known that the aftershocks of their battles can be felt 100 years after their deaths. This book addresses that mystery. Before it focuses its energy upon shedding light upon that shadow, however, it goes into depth to paint a picture of the work and contribution both EDC and OCM made to a new branch of science. The information concerning both professors given in TBH was touched upon, often in depth and always cited, but Mr. Wallace grants additional background that offers further clarity to the how and why the feud between these two men was so intense and so public. Where it not for James Gordon Bennett, “the sociopath publisher of the New York Herald,” the feud between Drinker and Marsh would have remained no more than a spat between two Academics whose egos needed to be massaged. Mr. Bennett, portrayed as one who cares more for publicity than relationship and measured his worth by the size of his bank accounts, saw in the emerging power struggle between OCM and EDC as a way of selling newspapers (and increasing his wealth). Never one to let journalistic ethics or fair work practice stand in the way of getting what he wanted, Mr. Bennett created - by using hyperbole, misquotes, gossip, incomplete research – a major news story from what deserved to be no more than a footnote in an obscure professional journal. Neither EDC nor OCM were blameless in the promotion of this “scandal.” Both were wronged and exerted much effort to injure the other’s reputation. Both manipulated the political contacts they had to seek the upper hand in a conflict that spawned interest for less than a week (when it was written) but whose imprint continues to be felt today. Mr. Bennett cared little for the content of the dispute. He cared greatly that that dispute last as long as it being reported caused the selling of his papers. After reading this book, it occurred to me that there has been little change in the ensuing 125 years since the Marsh/Cope wars was reported upon. Information is only important to the media as long as, and only to the extent of, it’s worth as a commodity. Conflict, graft, governmental malfeasance, petty feuds are front page news, until the next dark cloud is spotted. Were it not for the conflict between Dr. Marsh and Dr. Cope, would the interest in paleontology be as great in the US as it presently is? Did Mr. Bennett’s greed serve the greater purpose, albeit unintended, of causing interest in a new field of study when that field was in its infancy? The best thing that arose from the works of OCM and EDC was not their life-long shouting match; it was the contributions they made to how life developed on this planet. It takes work to see through the smoke of headlines to see what the real story is. Perhaps I will remember that when as I watch the upcoming election “debates.”

  • Kate
    2019-05-09 09:43

    "When dinosaur fossils were first discovered in the Wild West, they sparked one of the greatest scientific battles in American history. Over the past century it has been known by many names -- the Bone War, the Fossil Feud -- but the tragic story of the competition for fame and natural treasure between Edward Drinker Cope and Othnial Charles Marsh, two leading paleontologists of the Gilded Age, remains prophetic of the conquest of the West as well as a watershed event in science."With a[n] historian's eye and a novelist's skill, David Rains Wallace charts in fascinating detail the unrestrained rivalry between Cope and Marsh and their obsession to become the first to make available to the world the abundant, unknown fossils of the western badlands. This story will surely fascinate anyone who has had to confront the myriad facets of professional jealousy, its sterile brooding, and the way it leads to an emotional abyss."~~back coverThe book is all its description says, and less than, in a curious way. Certainly the rivalry is laid out in consuming detail, and the two paleontologists are examined minutely. The reader can't help but wonder how much more might have been accomplished had they pooled their intellects and their resources.All that being said, I thought the book was too much dedicated to the details, and not enough to their respective discoveries or the challenges of fieldwork. I was looking less for a military history (which this book in some ways was) and more for a history of the fossils found, and the fieldwork involved in the finding.

  • Matthew
    2019-05-15 10:01

    Wallace’s book is about the paleontological feud that occurred between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh during the Gilded Age (The squabbling started during the Grant Administration and continued into the 1890’s when both men died.). Cope and Marsh were both involved with the discovery in western US fossil beds of many dinosaur and prehistoric mammal species. Some of their finds are still known today (though others has been revised as new information came in). Many of their specimens are still on view today (at, for instance, NYC’s American Museum of Natural History and New Haven’s Peabody Museum). The book did a nice job of describing the two men and exposing their mindsets (Cope: amateur and dilettante; Marsh: professional and academic). It also did a nice job with showing how these men were tied to other events of the time. (Marsh, after a dig in the Dakotas, represented, at a meeting discussing the abuse of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Red Cloud and the Oglala Sioux in Washington. Marsh also was a key part of the early battle over evolutionary theory and provided many fossils to back the arguments put forward by Darwin’s biggest English advocate, T.H. Huxley. Lastly, Marsh became an ally of John Wesley Powell of the enormously important US Geological Survey of the Western Territories. Cope, as an outsider, was not so involved in the major events of the time, though he seems to have more than once just missed getting swept up in the various Indian Wars of the Gilded Age. ) Lastly, it did a nice job of showing the Press Wars that were a large part of the Gilded Age and early 20th Century. The information on the New York Herald’s eccentric owner, James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and his role in the Press Wars was of interest to this reader as he had only heard of the Spanish-American War-era press battles fought between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. It was also of interest to see how Bennett used the Bone Wars between Cope and Marsh (& to a lesser degree Marsh’s ally, Powell), as a counter to other newspaper’s major news stories of the time, Nellie Bly and her Phileas Fogg-beating journey around the world, and Henry M. Stanley and his assorted rescuings from Darkest Africa of, first, David Livingstone and, then, Emin Pascha (a naturalist-explorer who was one of the Model’s for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness). Overall, the book, an apologia for Cope, was a bit long-winded. Nonetheless, it was worth the read for information it provided on the social history aspects of the Gilded Age.

  • Dale
    2019-05-21 14:02

    The problem with history is that it's never quite as narratively satisfying as fiction. I've probably said that before, but I'm of a mind to insist that it bears repeating. Real-life dramas may be fascinating precisely because they actually happened, with details that would strain suspension of disbelief past the breaking point in a novel, but the vast majority of the time the events simply unfold, as history does, without the steadily raised stakes and increased action leading to an explosive climax that marks the kind of fiction I like. Alas.So The Bonehunters' Revenge is a well-written survey of the careers of two American scientists in the latter half of the 19th century, and it evokes a gripping period of time in both our national history and in the then-nascent field of paleontology. It fundamentally succeeds as both dual biography and documentation of the West of the 1860's - 1890's. But ... but! The title is a bit of a tease.As far as I could tell, there was never any "revenge" served up in the feud between Cope and Marsh which is the crux of the book. The subtitle as it appears here at GoodReads is "Dinosaurs and Fate in the Gilded Age". The physical edition I actually read is subtitled "Dinosaurs, Greed and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age". Apparently, when you qualify a "feud" as scientific you mean that it is cerebral and dull. The "coming to blows" of the Cope-Marsh feud involved letters and interviews in the Herald newspaper - and not even weeks and months of back and forth with escalating rhetoric, or physical confrontations inspired by the words exchanged. No, just an article, a response, and a counter-response. The whole affair was silly and petty and that may very well be Wallace's point, but I suppose I went into it hoping that there might be barroom brawls, pistols at dawn, train trestles dynamited, or other blockbuster elements. I was disappointed. Wallace tried to liven things up by also highlighting the publisher of the Herald, who was apparently one crazy loon, but even his antics could not add much to the rueful saga of two egocentric Victorian archaeologists.It takes a lot to make me regret reading a book, and of course The Bonehunters' Revenge didn't come close to that level. It just stayed at the level of "moderately enlightening" instead of anything really earth-shattering.

  • Dan
    2019-05-19 10:52

    An interesting look into the classic bone feud between the famous paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. It takes an interesting slant by viewing the feud through the lens of what was published at the time in the New York Herald. The backstory leading up to the newspaper climax was the most interesting portion. The epilogue was irrelevant to the rest of the book which featured a watered down 'feud' which is really just a disagreement between modern scientists followed up by an unnecessarily preachy conclusion. I'd recommend a different book if you want to learn about O. C. Marsh and E. D. Cope, but I haven't read any.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-12 14:57

    This was a re-read for my current novel project, and it reminded me again why I found the tale of Othniel C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope so inspiring. It's almost too good to be true, two intelligent scientists who take different paths to the study of paleontology--and to a lifelong hatred. David Rains Wallace does a great job both of capturing their personalities and outlining the ways in which they battled, both in the pages of nineteenth century scientific journals and the arid badlands of the American West.

  • Josh
    2019-05-02 14:52

    This book made me wish I lived during a time when major newspapers were batshit crazy and published whatever the hell they wanted. Other than that, it started slow and took a bit too long to wrap up, but I really enjoyed the story of two very smart men not content with their own discoveries attempting to ruin each other's life by acting like babies. 19th century paleontology was fun!

  • Kay
    2019-05-06 16:55

    Cope vs. Marsh in one of the greatest rivalries in the history of science. Their longstanding feud was so incredibly spiteful and petty -- it's a prime example of the sort of rivalries that are far more common in science than most people would imagine. My husband, a scientist, especially enjoyed this book -- he's seen his share of scientific infighting, I'd imagine, and can relate.

  • Gigi
    2019-04-26 15:36

    This is an interesting story, but it turns out that I was not interested in it enough to want this level of detail about it. The prose is clunky, as if the author is having difficulty writing for a non-academic audience. I didn't end up finishing the book.

  • PMP
    2019-04-27 09:42

    Who else loves detailed accounts of legendary feuds between arcane specialists? Come here for fossil theft, bone vandalism, scientific plagiarism, government corruption, newspaper vitriole, death by Sioux, and even Syphilis. Helps you see Stephen Jay and good ol' E.O. in a new light.

  • Zazzu
    2019-05-02 12:50

    Have to say I was hoping for a bit more juicy scandal on what started the feud between these two men. The book was a tad drier than I hoped, and at times I even had a hair of trouble keeping Cope and Marsh straight.

  • Becky
    2019-04-26 08:43

    Meh. Not as interesting as I thought it would be. The book describes the rivalry between Cope and Marsh, two early paleontologists. I would not recommend this book.