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Less than one hundred years ago, Diplodocus carnegii – named after industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – was the most famous dinosaur on the planet. The most complete fossil skeleton unearthed to date, and one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, Diplodocus was displayed in a dozen museums around the world and viewed by millions of people.
Bone Wars explains how a fossil unearthed in the badlands of Wyoming in 1899 helped give birth to the public's fascination with prehistoric beasts. Rea also traces the evolution of scientific thought regarding dinosaurs, and reveals the double-crosses and behind-the-scenes deals that marked the early years of bone hunting.
With the help of letters found in scattered archives, Tom Rea recreates a remarkable story of hubris, hope, and turn-of-the-century science. He focuses on the roles of five men: Wyoming fossil hunter Bill Reed; palaeontologists Jacob Wortman – in charge of the expedition that discovered Mr. Carnegie's dinosaur – and John Bell Hatcher; William Holland, imperious director of the recently founded Carnegie Museum; 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 that turned up; 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.
Tom Rea, who grew up in Pittsburgh admiring the dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, lives in Casper, Wyaming, with his family. Now a freelance writer, for a dozen years he covered politics, education, and science for the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming's largest newspaper.
"An account of the intrigue, manipulation, rivalry, and skullduggery by which Andrew Carnegie obtained a world-class dinosaur skeleton for his newly founded museum in Pittsburgh."
– Bloomsbury Review
"Bone Wars makes for interesting reading – a book carefully researched and composed in the exact prose of a journalist – a story about great figures who walked the earth, and what became of them – a story, in the end, about boneheads and brilliant men."
– Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong
"A lively, perceptive account of just how much more there was to the 'heroic age' of dinosaur hunting than simply finding and identifying bones. Anyone who wants to understand paleontology and the sensational present-day conflicts over fossil resources should read it."
– David Rains Wallace, author of The Bonehunters' Revenge
"Finally! A break from the usual story about Marsh and Cope. A long overdue look at Andrew Carnegie's dinosaur, which made 'dinosaur' a popular word all over the world."
– Kenneth Carpenter, Denver Museum of Natural History
"Bone Wars has a much broader appeal than a summary suggests, giving portraits of the men, the times and the competitive worl of early paleontology. It's a fast and fascinating tale from Wyoming's past, its past of 100 years ago and 140 million years ago."
– Jackson Hole News
"Bone Wars: The Excavation of Andrew Carnegie's Dinosaur digs into the rivalries, politics and power plays spurred by the discovery of dinosaur remains in Wyoming in the late 1800's. Struggles over ownership of such remains still make headlines today."
– The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Rea pieces together countless bits of information to construct an overall picture of scientific discovery."
"While the book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel. Readers get a sense of the difficulties of life in the little-populated West and will develop strong opinions about the personalities involved. The book draws strongly on correspondence and other documents and includes a good bibliography that alone makes it work buying for dinosaur lovers."
– Billings MT Gazette
"[...] interesting, comfortable to read, and well-illustrated with historical photographs and drawings."