It must have been an astonishing revelation. In England, in the 1820s, fossil hunters first uncovered evidence of gigantic extinct reptiles which had roamed the earth milions of years before the appearance of man — and whose existence had not even been guessed at. Richard Owen, the great English anatomist and paleontologist, coined the term “Dinosauria” (“terrible lizards”) to describe these mysterious creatures whose fossilized remains had been discovered in the Mesozoic rocks of southern England.
In this fascinating, anecdotal and lavishly illustrated volume, Edwin Colbert, a former Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and a noted dinosaur hunter in his own right, tells the fascinating story of dinosaur research, from its beginnings in 19th-century England to an Arctic expedition in 1960. Along the way, he recounts the exploits and accomplishments of a host of dedicated (often obsessed) researchers: William Buckland and Gideon Mantell, early English fossil hunters who presented the first true scientific evidence of dinosaur remains; Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, whose epic excavations in the Jurassic beds of Wyoming and Colorado were a turning point in dinosaur research — and touched off one of the bitterest rivalries in American science; Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History (perhaps the most productive of all dinosaur hunters), who excavated Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Cretaceous beds of eastern Montana; Charles Sternberg and his sons, who made the thrilling discovery of fossilized dinosaur skin, and many other memorable figures and events.
Over 100 revealing photographs (supplemented by 47 line drawings and maps) transport the reader on actual expeditions — to the Gobi Desert (where fossilized eggs of Proceratops were discovered); to the Red Deer River in Alberta, Canada, site of the great “dinosaur rush” early in this century; to Dinosaur National Monument, where visitors can actually see dinosaur bones in position in the rock.
Although brimming with scientific information and historical data, the informal conversational style of this book makes it a pleasure to read. It will intrigue anyone with an interest in dinosaurs, paleontology, or a scientific adventure story replete with unforgettable characters and far-reaching implications.
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