Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2002 Spur Award for Best Western Nonfiction - Contemporary
Less than one hundred years ago, Diplodocus carnegiinamed after industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegiewas 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 publics 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; paleontologists Jacob Wortmanin charge of the expedition that discovered Mr. Carnegies dinosaurand 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.
"Carnegie's agent, a man named Holland, found himself drawn into a tumultuous race for the biggest and best skeleton yet. Very few tactics were considered too heinous to be employed by someone. As the museums and universities lured away and recruited one another's scientists and fossil prospectors, Holland explored loopholes in the land-claim laws that might allow him to take possession of land on which discoveries had already been made. Others, in the fields, smashed and destroyed dinosaur bones so that no one else would find them intact. Rea pieces together countless bits of information to construct an overall picture of this period of scientific discovery." -- Booklist
Tom Rea traces the evolution of scientific thought regarding dinosaurs and reveals the deception, hostility, and sometimes outright aggression present in the early years of fossil hunting. This book details one of the most famous—and notorious—dinosaur skeletons ever discovered: Diplodocus carnegii, named after Andrew Carnegie.
About the Author
Tom Rea, who grew up in Pittsburgh admiring the dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, lives in Casper, Wyoming, with his family. Now a freelance writer, for a dozen years he covered politics, education, and science for the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyomings largest newspaper.