Colleagues become bitter rivals in this tale of scientific discovery set during paleontology’s heady early days.
Rightly judging that Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh would be less remembered for their achievements than their feud, Noyes highlights the latter, which resulted in a vicious “Scientific Smackdown” rabid enough to become a public spectacle. She sets it amid a wide-angled account of how rich fossil discoveries in the 19th century, particularly in the American West, fueled sometimes-unscrupulous races to find more even as natural science was undergoing some revolutionary growing pains. With liberal use of period illustrations and side essays, she tells a tale in which Buffalo Bill Cody and Red Cloud figure as prominently as Mary Anning and Charles Darwin, featuring Indiana Jones–style expeditions into rugged country at a time when the buffalo still roamed (if not for long) and the Battle of Little Bighorn was fresh news. Young readers interested in the intrepid exploits of the early fossil hunters have plenty of choices, from Kathryn Lasky’s Bone Wars (1988) on, but it’s a grand yarn nonetheless and, in this iteration, offers illuminating sidelights and updated lists of print and web resources.
A fresh gander at the beginnings of dino-mania. (index, timeline, endnotes) (Nonfiction. 10-13)