The Dinosaur Bone Wars

By | June 13, 2019

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Tyrannosaurus Rex. Source: (

The late 19th century saw an explosion in interest in dinosaurs. Two scientists, Edward Drinker Cope, and Othniel Charles Marsh were at the forefront of research and the discovery of new species. Curiously, the drive to find the most bones led to an incredible feud in which both paleontologists used devious and underhanded techniques to win the so-called “Bone Wars.”

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Othniel Charles Marsh (left) and Edward Drinker Cope (right), the antagonists of the Bone Wars. Source: (

Born in 1840, Cope came from a wealthy family of Quakers. He had little formal education, but his intelligence was such that he came to work under the paleontologist Joseph Leidy at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Marsh was born in 1831 to a family of modest farmers, but he had a rich uncle, the banker George Peabody, who helped fund his early education. Marsh received a scholarship from Yale and also studied in Berlin. In 1865 he was appointed a professor of vertebrate paleontology at Yale, the first in the United States. Simultaneously, he helped to found the Peabody Museum of Natural History by convincing his uncle to finance it.