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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 Othniel 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 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 how it leads to an emotional abyss.
David Rains Wallace is the author of fifteen books, including The Turquoise Dragon, The Quetzal and the Macaw, The Monkey's Bridge (a 1997 New York Times Notable Book), and The Klamath Knot, which won the Burroughs Medal in 1984. He was raised in Connecticut and graduated from Wesleyan College. He now lives in Berkeley, California.
and Cope, who pioneered fossil hunting in the American West, were one-upping each other out on the frontier for so long that they were making headlines throughout the 1870's. Now, a century after their deaths, David Rains Wallace has brought it all back to life [...] The fact that books describing the vendetta seem to outweigh the men's scientific legacies adds a sobering moral to the story. Their antagonism was fuelled by the fact that palaeontology was just taking off. Darwin's radical new theory of evolution just begged to be tested by fossil finds, and as in any young field, names could be made – or egos bruised."
– Jeff Hecht, New Scientist
"Like Matthiessen, McPhee, and Gould, [Wallace] asks large questions but knows the answers we find will always be too small."
– The Chicago Sun-Times