All Episodes

June 15, 2024 42 mins

This 2012 episode from previous hosts Sarah and Deblina explores the rivalry between paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. The two started out as friends, but their friendship soon soured.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Happy Saturday. The Bone Wars are going to get a
name drop in an upcoming episode, so we have past
hosts episode on that feud as Today's Saturday Classic. This
was originally a two part episode, but we are running
it all together as one, so just roll with any
references that you hear to things like in the next
episode or last time.

Speaker 2 (00:23):
Also, there's some discussion of George Peabody in this episode,
and his name is pronounced differently in different regions and
the Northeast people mostly say Peabody like I just said it,
but in a lot of the rest of the US,
it's Peabody like it's spelled, and those different pronunciations trickle
down to all the various institutions named after him, much

(00:43):
like Haldcab County, Georgia and Dekyle, Illinois are pronounced differently
even though they're named after the same person. This episode
was from host Sarah and Deblina and it originally came
out December thirty first, twenty twelve and January ninth, twenty thirteen.
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class a production

(01:04):
of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 3 (01:11):
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Dablina Chokerborny and
I'm Sarah Dowdie and we have had a lot of
fun this year. I've had a lot of fun at
least covering scientific rivalries. We've talked about Horace Wells and
the Gas War, and of course Tesla and Edison and
the War of the Currents. That was one that was
really popular because it was much anticipated and requested beforehand.

Speaker 4 (01:32):
It stirred up a little rivalry on our Facebook page,
it did, but hell, it's got a lot of strong support.

Speaker 3 (01:39):
Yeah, I was about to say the rivalries out there,
but yeah, Tesla is definitely kind of a favorite these days,
I would say so. Those episodes and the Mary Anning
Princess of Paleontology episode that we did earlier this year,
got listeners clamoring for a podcast on another scientific war,
one about two nineteenth century paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and

(01:59):
oth Neil Charles Marsh. Now, Cope and Marsh duped it
out over America's fossil deposits during a time when the
field of paleontology was still pretty new. Their race to
find fossils, named the species that they belonged to, and
publish their findings about all of this came to be
known by many names, including the Great Dinosaur Feud, the

(02:19):
Dinosaur Rush, and the Bone Wars.

Speaker 4 (02:22):
Our title today, And they really made an impact too.
Prior to their work, there were only nine known species
of North American dinosaurs, and these two men's efforts led
to the classification of one hundred and thirty six new species.
But Cope and Marsh's feud also resulted in a lot
more than just the advancement of their field. It was

(02:43):
kind of an embarrassment too. It was a pretty dark
time in a lot of ways. It ended up damaging
both of their reputations and maybe even hindered scientific progress
in some respect.

Speaker 3 (02:55):
Yeah, so much so that it's interesting their feud has
been regarded, quote as a kind of scientific indiscretion, says
James Pennic in an article in American Heritage. So we're
going to kind of explore that a little bit, but
in two parts. Yes we are in two parts. But
to understand why these guys came to be at such odds,
we first need to discuss a little bit about their

(03:16):
backgrounds and how they came to be in their field
in the first place. Because they both took very different
paths to end up basically in the same competition.

Speaker 4 (03:25):
So we'll start with Marsh. He's the elder of the two.
Athaniel Charles Marsh was born October twenty ninth, eighteen thirty one,
in Lockport, New York. His father was very poor. He
was a farmer, and even though Marsh showed a lot
of interest in science from a young age, his father
only intended him to take over the family farm someday.

(03:45):
But fortunately for Marsh, he had a very influential uncle.
His mother, who had died when he was only three
years old, was the sister of the banker philanthropist George Peabody.

Speaker 3 (03:56):
A much beloved sister.

Speaker 4 (03:57):
Yes luckily luckily so of course, Peabody had one of
the largest personal fortunes in the world, according to Pennock's article,
and it was a good person to have, especially if
Marsh's father was kind of struggling with his work.

Speaker 3 (04:12):
So around age twenty one, Marsh inherited some money from
his uncle that had been meant for his mother's dowry,
and he used this money to attend prep school at
Phillips Academy. And of course, at twenty one, he was
much older than the other kids there.

Speaker 4 (04:26):
So you think that pewbody could have advanced him the
money for the education.

Speaker 3 (04:31):
Further ahead of time. Yeah, you would hope so, But
that wasn't the case. That didn't happen. So according to
an article by Tom Huntington in American History, his peers
at prep school gave him nicknames like Daddy and Captain,
which you would think would just be mortifying, but he
didn't seem to care, or if he did, he didn't
let it stop him. He graduated as valedictorian and then

(04:53):
convinced his uncle to pay to send him to Yale College,
where he earned an undergraduate degree in eighteen sixty. He
then went on to you earn a master's degree from
Yale Sheffield School of Science a couple years later.

Speaker 4 (05:04):
And after that he spent a little bit of time
studying in Europe and convinced uncle Peabody to donate some
more money, this time to Yale for a Museum of
Natural Sciences. And it was kind of a hard sell
because Peabody preferred Harvard. He would have preferred to have
given his money to Harvard, but marsh did get his
way in the end, and he was appointed to run

(05:25):
the Museum as curator and became a professor of paleontology
at Yale. So if your uncle does pony f the money,
it's you're a shoot way to get a job. Ultimately, though,
he was the first professor of paleontology in North America
according to Huntington's article, so a big step in his career.

Speaker 3 (05:45):
So moving on to Cope. Unlike marsh Edward Drinker, Cope
came from a wealthy Quaker family, so definitely a bit
of a brighter start in life. He was born July
twenty eighth, eighteen forty in Philadelphia, so nine years after Marsh,
and he also showed a really early interest in science.
He actually recorded his impressions of the fossils of an

(06:06):
extinct marine reptile called Ichthyosaurus, which I think we talked
about a little bit in the Marry Manning episode. He
recorded his impressions of this when he was only six
years old.

Speaker 4 (06:15):
So he was like you du Blaina playing fossil hunter.

Speaker 3 (06:18):
Yeah, I think it was probably a little more on
top of it than I was. But when he was
eighteen he also published a scientific paper on salamanders, and
another thing that set Cope apart from Marsh, though, is
that he didn't get a lot in the way of
a formal education, which is kind of surprising considering he
was so into science at an early age. He studied
for about a year at the University of Pennsylvania, spent

(06:41):
some time studying the herpetology collections of the Smithsonian, and
he worked as a researcher at the Academy of Natural
Sciences in Philadelphia, but definitely didn't take that sort of
traditional academic path that Marsh took.

Speaker 4 (06:54):
He did take a little tour through Europe eventually, though,
to further his education. To to keep Cope from becoming
involved in the Civil War, his father sent him abroad
to study natural history in eighteen sixty three and he
ended up for a time at Berlin University in Germany,
and coincidentally, Marsh was there at the same time, and

(07:15):
the two guys did become acquainted, and even though it
seems really unbelievable, later they were actually friendly with each
other and they continued their friendship stateside and after they
returned home, even though their lives did take somewhat different paths.

Speaker 3 (07:30):
Yeah, Marsh of course came back and he had this
nice cush position at Yale to come into and Cope
came back to marry his cousin Annie Pern, and he
became a professor of zoology and botany at Haverford College
in Pennsylvania. That position, however, was pretty short lived. Cope
left it in eighteen sixty seven to go study a

(07:51):
big deposit of dinosaur fossils found in New Jersey. So
just a little background on the study of dinosaurs up
to this point. According to Huntington's article, a British scientist
named Richard Owen had coined the term dinosaur in eighteen
forty one, but he had described them as these quote
low slung lizard like creatures. Joseph Ldey's study of the

(08:13):
first US dinosaur find and hadden Field, New Jersey in
eighteen fifty eight totally changed this perception. Lighty worked with
the bones of a Hadrosaurus and showed that it would
have walked erect on two legs instead of on all
fours like a lizard like most people thought, and that
first Hadrosaurus, which Lighty helped reconstruct, became the first complete

(08:33):
dinosaur skeleton to be displayed for the public. According to
PBS dot Org.

Speaker 4 (08:37):
Well and Lighty had a connection to one of these guys,
d didn't he He did.

Speaker 3 (08:42):
He had been Cope's anatomy professor at the University of
Pennsylvania and was also his mentor at the Academy of
Natural Sciences, So probably someone that Cope looked up to
and learned from.

Speaker 4 (08:52):
Yeahf way, if you're only going to do one year
at penn it was good even met this guy. But
ultimately Cope did go to New Jersey where this fossil
quarry was, and he participated in several excavations there. So
at this point, as we mentioned, Cope and Marsh were
still friendly with each other, enough so that in eighteen
sixty seven Cope even named an amphibian fossil Toni's Marshye

(09:17):
after Marsh. I mean, that's a pretty nice thing to
do for your fellow scientist, I would say. He also
spent a week or so in eighteen sixty eight showing
Marsh around the fossil quarry in New Jersey where he
was working, pointing out his various collection sites, really being
open about his work with Marsh. Something important to remember

(09:38):
later on that year too, Marsh wasn't just gonna take
this gift of a dinosaur name and let it go.
He returned the naming compliment, and, according to PBS dot org,
gave a quote new and gigantic serpent from the tertiary
of New Jersey, the name Mosesaurus copianus. That just your

(10:00):
didn't count for a whole lot in the long run,
but still it's a gesture.

Speaker 3 (10:04):
Yeah, So just to give you a little background of
why it might not have been as sweet a gesture
as it seemed. Cope later found out that Marsh had
gone behind his back and made a deal with the
New Jersey quarry owner that ensured that all of the
fossils that were found there would go directly to Marsh first,
so basically cutting Cope out of the loop, cut him
out of the process.

Speaker 4 (10:24):
Cope is taking him around this place, showing off what
he's working on, giving them the tour.

Speaker 3 (10:30):
Yes, Marsh supposedly, I guess, being totally open about it,
not assuming that Marsh is going to backstab him, but
that's exactly what happens. So Cope was kind of hoodwinked
by this. In the same year, in eighteen sixty eight,
something else happened in their relationship. In Cope and Marsha's relationship.
Cope was in a big hurry to publish his findings

(10:50):
on a new species of pleaseosaur, the fossilized bones of
which had been shipped to him by an Army surgeon
from Kansas, And this is how they received their their fossils.

Speaker 4 (11:01):
Sometimes this reminded me a little bit of the Mary
Anning episode, where, of course the earlier situation we were
describing of Cope going to the dig side and looking
himself sounds more like what you'd expect, but just having
bone shipped to you from somebody else.

Speaker 3 (11:16):
Yeah, and we talk about we'll talk about the bone
collectors and so forth a little more in part two
of this, but this sort of introduces that idea. But anyway,
Cope he got these bones. He called this previously unknown
pleasiosaur Elasmosaurus. Unfortunately, though, when Cope was reconstructing the Elasmosaurus skeleton,
he made a pretty major error. He reversed all of

(11:39):
the vertebrae and put its head on its tail instead
of on the end of its neck.

Speaker 4 (11:44):
It's pretty bad and guests who noticed. Marsh paid a
visit to the Academy of Natural Sciences to check out
Cope's work, and of course he did not hesitate to
point out this error, and he's even said to have
been the first person two pointed out to Cope. Cope
called in Joseph Lady to take another look and offer

(12:06):
up a second opinion. He confirmed the mistake, and actually,
upon looking at the skeleton, Lady removed the head and
placed on reversed it with what Cope had originally thought
was the tale. So pretty bad.

Speaker 3 (12:21):
Yeah, and Lady also discussed this error at the next
meeting of the Academy of Natural Sciences. So you can
imagine it's just like embarrassment on top of embarrassment. First
he's embarrassedor yes, he's embarrassed in front of his colleague,
then he's embarrassed in front of his mentor, and then
at the Academy of Natural Sciences in front of this
entire meeting of scientists. And of course also it's in publication.

(12:45):
As we mentioned before, it's already out there in the
Journal of the American Philosophical Society. They had already published
his findings, including a drawing of this incorrect restoration. So
Cope frantically starts to try to buy back every copy
of the publication that he could find. But this incident,
combined with Marsh's shady dealings regarding the New Jersey quarry,

(13:07):
really seemed to have kicked off the feud between the two,
or at least started the rift and bad feelings between them.
But if you really look at which of these incidents
had more to do with the bad feelings between them,
it really depends on which one of them that you asked,
I mean, Cope would probably say it had more to
do with what happened in New Jerseyscil issue, yes, and

(13:27):
Marsh would say that he was just embarrassed and mad
that he had pointed out his mistake.

Speaker 1 (13:32):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (13:32):
Well, Marsh even later wrote of the incident and said
that it was Cope's quote, wounded vanity that had received
a shock from which it never recovered, and he has
since been my bitter enemy. So yeah, that's Marsh saying, Oh,
Cope just couldn't handle being wrong, essentially. He also later
admitted that while he initially did return his copy of

(13:54):
the publication to Cope as Cope had requested, trying to
hoard all these incorrect copies, he Marche later sought out
and bought two additional copies, which he did hang on
to as if he wanted to have them as some
kind of ammunition. Seems like something that your buddy wouldn't
do you.

Speaker 3 (14:14):
No, only your most bitter enemy would do that, or
at least you would hope. But this is a great
example of how Cope's big rush to get things published
sometimes resulted in him making errors. But of course marsh
although he was said to be very meticulous, wasn't immune
to this either. He did make his share of mistakes.
Just one example, he once put a Chemerosaurus skull on

(14:37):
the skeleton of an Apatosaurus, which, according to an article
by Renee Clary, James Wandersea, and Amy Carpinelli in Science Scope,
was quote one of the longest lasting mistakes of paleontology.
And we're going to discuss at least one of his
other major errors later on too. But that's just to
give you one example.

Speaker 4 (14:56):
And so, of course, in some ways, you know, we've
been talking about this rush that both of the men
were constantly under. These errors were a direct result of
competition between them, because not only were they trying to
get their discoveries out there quickly, because the naming rights
were given to whoever published a fine first. They were

(15:17):
trying specifically to beat each other to the punch. I mean,
that's not going to make great meticulous work in the end,
most likely, right.

Speaker 3 (15:27):
The feud between Cope and Marsh really began in earnest
in the eighteen seventies, when they both headed west to
hunt for fossils. Marsh's first expedition was in eighteen seventy,
and it was sponsored by Yale, and he had this
whole entourage with them, including about a dozen Yale students
and even an army escort that they acquired once they'd

(15:47):
made it to what's now the Midwest, and they explored Kansas, Wyoming,
and Utah, and according to Huntingson's article, at one point
they even had buffalo Bill Cody as their guide. But
by the time they got back to Ye after that
first trip, they had thirty six boxes of specimens, including
bone fragments from a pterodactyl wing when no pterodactyl had

(16:08):
been discovered before, and Marsh estimated that this giant flying
reptile would have had a wingspan of twenty feet. So
Cope and Marsh when they really started to butt heads
was around eighteen seventy two, when Cope started exploring Wyoming
Territory looking for fossils there. Huntington writes that Marsh was
really angry about this because he considered the area his turf.

(16:29):
I guess because he'd already hunted four fossils around there.

Speaker 4 (16:31):
Taste of his own medicine there, I have to say,
but this ultimately kicked off a really nasty sort of
letter writing campaign between the two. It reminds me of
the pamphlet Wars we sometimes discuss some podcasts, but there
were tactics were not just limited towards either. They employed
everything from espionage to theft in their battle to be

(16:53):
known as the best in the field, and I think
to a certain extent to make sure the other guy
was number two to or even lower. So we're gonna
be discussing examples of some of these tactics in the
next episode, as well as what happens when Cope and
Marsh finally take their fight to what turned out to
be the ultimate battleground for them. And it was not

(17:15):
some fossil ground, it was Washington.

Speaker 3 (17:17):
D C. Yeah, so lots of interesting things to cover
in part two, including I think we'll talk a little
bit more just about their personalities too, in their personal lives,
because I think it gives some interesting insight as to
maybe some more of the root of the animosity. It
wasn't necessarily all about dinosaur bones. Not all about it, no,
but a lot, a lot, yes, that's for sure.

Speaker 4 (17:49):
When we left them off, Cope and Marsh had just
started to look west in search of fossils. In this episode, though,
we're gonna be talking a bit about what they found
out west and the sometimes shady tactics that they employed
to be the first to get credit for their discoveries.
We're also going to take a look at the more
official stage on which their battle played out and where

(18:10):
it got truly truly nasty. But first we want to
take a closer look at who these guys were, because
it might help provide at least a little more insight
as to why they were destined to clash in the
first place, the clash of the dinosaur hunters.

Speaker 3 (18:26):
Okay, so we've already talked about the differences between Cope
and Marsh's socioeconomic backgrounds and their educational training, which is
kind of where it all started. And if you'll recall,
Marsh was poor raised on a farm until his uncle
George Peabody stepped in with the financial support that marsh
needed to go to prep school and then onto Yale

(18:48):
and its Peabody's generous donation at Marsha's request. That also
led to the creation of a Museum of Natural Sciences
at Yale, which was a move that then helped secure
marshall professorship there and it created a great resource for
him while he was hunting for fossils, so.

Speaker 4 (19:04):
He had Yale in his corner. But all of Peabody's
support did, unfortunately come with a catch. According to an
article by James Pennock in American Heritage, it turned out
that Uncle George had a certain stipulation for anyone named
in his will, and that stipulation involved marriage. When he
was twenty five in a freshman at Yale, marsh received

(19:27):
a letter from his aunt indicating this stipulation, and it
read quote, if any of his nephews should in any
way conduct himself as to disgrace themselves and him or
now mind this, should any of them form a marriage
connection or even get engaged before they had the means
of supporting a family, they should never have a cent

(19:48):
of his money. He desired me to communicate this to
all his nephews.

Speaker 3 (19:54):
Yeah, and apparently there was one other nephew who had
gotten cut out of the will for marrying too soon,
So Peabody was serious about that.

Speaker 4 (20:02):
Put to the test.

Speaker 3 (20:03):
By the time Marsh was financially independent, he was well
into his thirties, so Penneck kind of suggests maybe he
was too set in his ways to marry at that point,
or you know, just wasn't inclined to do so, or
just that he had.

Speaker 4 (20:17):
This strange break on his life until he could be
financially independent.

Speaker 3 (20:21):
Right.

Speaker 4 (20:22):
He had some other friendly sort of issues though.

Speaker 3 (20:25):
Yeah, just basically the issue was that he didn't have
many friends. According to an article by Tom Huntington in
American History, people found Marsh to be quote autocratic and petty,
and accused him of taking credit for the work of
his assistance and for falling behind on paying his employees,
never a good move. At one of his clubs, they

(20:46):
apparently nicknamed him quote the Great dismal Swamp.

Speaker 4 (20:50):
That's a bad sign.

Speaker 3 (20:52):
He doesn't do well with the nicknames.

Speaker 2 (20:53):
No, he really.

Speaker 4 (20:54):
Doesn't, except for the bone Wars. That one is a
pretty great nickname for his rivalry. Cope, on the other hand,
came from a very different kind of background, which we
discussed on the last podcast. It was a more privileged beginning,
if you remember in the last episode. Though he didn't
have a lot of formal education. He was self taught,

(21:14):
and he was a part of this whole gentleman's world
of natural science that existed in the nineteenth century. Dublina
and I were talking about it earlier, how it just
fascinates us that gentlemen would choose to pursue science in
some form, and.

Speaker 3 (21:29):
There's something very romantic about it. I mean, we both
talked about how it just there's something very ideal about it.

Speaker 4 (21:35):
A little troubling too, because it ends up with you
end up with personal disputes like this. But Cope was
considered to be very brilliant, considered to be a prodigy,
and his life was also very different from Marsh's. On
a personal level too. We mentioned that he was married,
he had a wife, he had a daughter named Julia.

(21:55):
Unlike Marsh, too, Cope was pretty charming. The friends he
had seemed to really like him, really care for him,
although they would agree that he could kind of be arrogant.
Sometimes he could be quick tempered. According to Huntington's article,
paleontologist William Berryman Scott, who took Cope's side in the
war with Marsh instead of Cope quote, despite his greatness

(22:18):
in some measure, indeed because of it, he had some
unfortunate personal peculiarities. Was pugnacious and quarrelsome and made many enemies,
so many enemies, many friends, no friends on the other side,
kind of unusual guys.

Speaker 3 (22:32):
So when we last left off with our story, Cope
had kind of broken the mold of those gentlemen naturalists
that we were describing. They usually waited for things to
be sent to them to study. They didn't actually go
out on these great expeditions.

Speaker 4 (22:46):
They'd limit their study to the comfort of their own
home exactly.

Speaker 3 (22:51):
And Cope, like Marsh, went out to hunt fossils, but
he had a different way of traveling from Marsh. We
mentioned how Marsh went out with the entourage and had
guides and a military escort. Cope did not have a
resource like Yale behind him, so he didn't have all
these graduate assistants to come with him. So he often

(23:11):
put together teams for his expeditions when he got wherever
he was going. Also, since Cope was a Quaker, he
rarely used a military escort because he was a pacifist,
and he pretty much refused to carry a revolver, which
a lot of people thought was crazy because of the
thread of hostile Native American tribes out west. Among other things, yeah, bandits, highwaymen,

(23:33):
all sorts of risks he might come across, not to
mention just.

Speaker 4 (23:36):
The wildlife potentially exactly. Cope did things his way, though,
and he was very tough about it. Panic relates how
Cope would read the Bible every night, even when he
was out in the field, and if others in his
camp would would laugh at him, he'd sort of stare
them down until they would just straighten up, you know,
stop laughing, stop making fun of him. Cope and Marsh

(23:59):
did have successes in the field that we've kind of
described the way they carried about their expeditions, But they
did both have successes, though Marsh, of course, with his
official Yale connection and his peabody inheritance at his disposal,
did have more resources to throw at the situation. However,
both to some extent, Cope especially, were reliant on being

(24:22):
associated with one of several geological surveys of the West
that were going on at the time. It was kind
of an official backing almost Yeah.

Speaker 3 (24:30):
Being involved with these surveys provided economic support for their
work and a vehicle for publishing their findings, and this
becomes important later in our story as well. So just
kind of remember that. We talked a little in the
last podcast also about how Martian Cope started going at
each other mostly by way of letters after their initial
expeditions out west, when they started really competing in a

(24:52):
sense for fossil finds out there. But they really launched
into full scale warfare in eighteen seventy seven when Arthur Lakes,
who was a mining teacher, wrote to Marsh saying that
he'd discovered some fossils near Morris and Colorado. Now Marsh
didn't reply, so Lake's said, well, okay, I want to
do something with these, So he sent some samples to Cope.

(25:15):
When Marsh heard that, though he sent Lakes some cash
to win them over, he was like, well, I don't
want Cope to get these. After that, after getting that cash,
Lakes asked Cope to please send back his samples so
that he could work with Marsh, and according to Huntington,
part of what Marsh found among Lake's initial find were
the remains the first remains of a Stegosaurus.

Speaker 4 (25:36):
Around the time. The same time, too, another teacher named O. W.
Lucas also found some fossils in Colorado. He contacted Cope
first about it, and Cope jumped at the chance to
check out the fossils. Overall, according to Huntington, Cope's Colorado
finds actually turn out to be better than Marsh's because

(25:56):
they were bigger and they could be taken out of
the surrounding raw without breaking them. Marsh, of course, did
come out on top in other situations. In the summer
of eighteen seventy seven, for example, two railway workers in Como,
Wyoming named William Reid and W. E. Carlin contacted Marsh
about some fossils that they had discovered as a site

(26:19):
known as Como Bluff, and Marsh of course sent his
bone collectors out there. They ended up gathering thirty tons
of fossils from the Jurassic Age and shipped all the
stuff back to Marsh at Yale. And it was very
high quality, you know, large bones. It was well preserved.
The result of Marsh's investigation of this fine, too, really
speaks to how high quality it was. He discovered several

(26:41):
new species and named the Alosaurus, the Diplodocus, the Campedsaurus,
all from those Como Bluff finds.

Speaker 3 (26:52):
And also notably he named the Brontosaurus out of those fines,
one of the world's best known dinosaurs and Sarah's favorite dinosaur.
I should mention interesting, though, that the naming of Brontosaurus
is actually considered one of Marsh's biggest mistakes. After he died,
scientists realized that the creature Marsh had named Brontosaurus was

(27:15):
just another example of a dinosaur Marsh had already named
the Patosaurus, so the designation Brontosaurus was taken away. Obviously,
though that's kind of an endurance. And yes, so it's
probably clear by now that Cope and Marsh often weren't
the ones actually digging in the ground, collecting fossils, or
even supervising digs themselves, Hence all the talk of sending

(27:37):
bones back east to them. They accomplished a lot of
what they did through the help of bone collectors. Cope
and Marsh would occasionally visit the dig sites, but the
fossil collectors were sort of the foot soldiers in this
battle that they were waging against each other.

Speaker 4 (27:52):
Too. There really was a lot of taking sides. Reid
took Marsh's side and became a major collector for him,
while Carlin switched over to Cope side. Lucas remained on
Cope side while Lake's stuck with Marsh. I was surprised
by Lucas, I think since he sort of got slighted
at the beginning by Marsh. But I guess I was

(28:13):
might have been better.

Speaker 3 (28:15):
Yeah, I mean that means a lot.

Speaker 4 (28:17):
It does. Occasionally though, according to Huntington, again, the two
paleontologists would try to woo each other's collectors away from
the other. I don't know if they were tempting them
with better publication of the works or money all the time.
But that wasn't the most extreme of the tactics used
in this war. I mean that already sounds a little

(28:39):
bit dicey. But they also spied on each other. Marsh
at least would even communicate in code with his collectors
to try to keep Cope from figuring out what he
was up to. What his bone collectors were up to.
They referred to Cope as Jones in this Sneaky Correspondence,
And one of Marsh's guys was so paranoid about Cope

(29:00):
spying on him that when a man showed up at
their camp one day in eighteen seventy eight, he asked
for a handwriting sample in case it was Cope in disguise.
He was so suspicious.

Speaker 3 (29:12):
So I guess they were right to worry, though, because
Cope really did charm his way into one of Marsha's
camps in eighteen seventy nine, probably to woo some team
members over to his side, or just to steal information outright.
But the funny thing was Marsha's men really liked Cope.
According to Huntington's article, Lakes later wrote of the incident

(29:34):
that Cope quote entertained his party by singing comic songs
with a refrain at the end, like the howl of Coyote,
and Lakes went on to observe quote. I must say
that when I saw of him, I liked very much.
His manner is so affable in his conversation, very agreeable.
I only wish I could feel sure he had a
sound reputation for honesty.

Speaker 4 (29:55):
Maybe not Yeah. According to an article by Renee Clary,
James Wandersey, and Amy Capernellian Science Scope. Marsh was said
to have planted unrelated fossils at some of Cope's dig

(30:17):
sites to slow down his progress too. So it's not
just invading the other guy's camp and.

Speaker 3 (30:23):
A reputation for honesty there.

Speaker 4 (30:26):
Well, I mean that takes it to another level, that
does tampering with the science essentially.

Speaker 3 (30:32):
Yeah, I mean, and that was the really shocking part
of Cope and Marsh's tactics is that they just they
went beyond trying to harm and hinder each other in
their efforts. They actually may have harmed the field itself
or maybe even hindered scientific progress in some cases. For example,
if Marsh's guy read unearthed more bones than he could use,

(30:52):
he smashed them so that Carlin couldn't get to them.

Speaker 4 (30:55):
Marsh is also said to have ordered that certain sites
be blown up dynamite to keep COPE from getting to
the fossils, although, according to a two thousand and eight
article by Jean Viev Rujuski, at least when it comes
to one of the sites that was supposedly blown up,
Krey ten, which is in Morrison, Colorado, those allegations are false.

(31:17):
Some researchers found Corey ten in two thousand and two
using Lake's field notes and determined that Lakes probably just
shoved some dirt in there and then said he dynamited
it to discourage the competition from checking it out. The
way I sort of read that, though, is maybe he
had his history of dynamiting things already established. Though if
people were going to believe.

Speaker 3 (31:38):
That could be well. It may have been out west
that some of the more colorful war tactics were used
by these two. As we hinted in the previous episode,
the really decisive battleground for the Bone Wars turned out
to be Washington, DC. And this is where Marsh really
pulled ahead, because even though he wasn't winning any popularity contests,

(31:58):
he was much savvier when it came to politics, and
Cope was the first development that really set the ball
rolling for Marsh had to do with those surveys out
west that we talked about earlier in the late eighteen
seventies early eighteen eighties or so, Congress upon the advice
of the National Academy of Sciences, which by the way,
was an organization which Marsh had become president of decided

(32:20):
to do away with all of the existing competing geological
surveys and create just one national geological survey to replace them.

Speaker 4 (32:29):
They decided to call it the United States Geological Survey,
and the former head of one of the defunct surveys
Marsh had been affiliated with, was named as the director.
So soon Marsh became the official vertebrate paleontologist of the
United States Geological Survey. Not too surprising there. If he's

(32:51):
the head of the National Academy of Sciences already, he
knows the new head of the Geological Survey. I mean,
he was certainly at this point winning the feud in
terms of political clout in the science world, in terms
of how his career was progressing. When Cope lost that
government support, it really devastated his research too, and his

(33:13):
publication efforts. He just didn't have any funding anymore. In
his personal wealth, which he had also put toward his
efforts in paleontology over all these years, was starting to
dry up. Cope, looking for a get rich quick sort
of scheme, tried to make up for it by investing
in a silver mine in New Mexico, but that turned

(33:34):
out to be a bust. He lost everything and it
really seemed at this point that there was a clear
winner and loser in this feud.

Speaker 3 (33:43):
But that didn't seem to be enough for Mars. He
took things a step further and tried to have Cope's
fossils confiscated, claiming that they had been collected with government funds.
Cope completely denied this. He said that he had used
his own money to collect the fossils. And then he
decided to fight back against Marsh in the only way

(34:03):
that he could at that point, and that was through
the press. He approached a writer for the New York
Herald and told that writer basically every bad thing that
he had ever thought or heard about Marsh, and this
kicked off a very public, very brutal battle of words
between Cope and Marsh that was splashed all over the
pages of the New York Herald between January twelfth, eighteen

(34:23):
eighty and January twenty sixth, eighteen eighty under headlines like
scientists wage bitter warfare.

Speaker 4 (34:29):
And they went way back in their relationship too, And
they weren't just considering the last few years as there
as their ammo. They went back to the beginning According
to Huntington's article, Cope said things like Marsh was quote
unable to properly classify and name the fossils his explorers secured.
It's pretty damning. He said that Marsh took credit for

(34:53):
his assistant's work, and he also accused Marsh and the
US Geological Survey of corruption and misuse of god government funds,
which is pretty key here. For his part, Marsh brought
up how Cope rushed to get his discoveries into print,
you know, before they were ready, often making errors in
the process. He also brought up that embarrassing mistake with

(35:14):
the elasmosaur, among other things. We discussed that in the
last podcast, flipping the head and tail of the dinosaur
and then having Marsh be the one to point it out.

Speaker 3 (35:26):
This newspaper feud didn't last long, but it was really
damaging to both of their reputations, so nobody won. In
this instance, Cope struggled to find a buyer for his
massive fossil collection because he needed the money. Eventually he
could only sell part of it, and then he hit
the lecture circuit and tried to secure a paying position
at a college. He didn't have that backing behind him

(35:48):
that Marsh had at Yale, I think I saw him
described in one spot as a rogue rogue scientist or
a rogue palaeontologist.

Speaker 4 (35:57):
And now he has all this bad press out.

Speaker 3 (35:59):
Too exactly, so doubly he just doesn't have anyone to
go to. At that point. It just proved to be
really tough to find a pain position. According to Pennock's article,
he finally got a position though, and a small salary,
at the University of Pennsylvania in eighteen eighty nine, and
he turned out to be a pretty good teacher. But
of course that wasn't his life's goal. That's not what

(36:20):
he had really wanted. He died in eighteen ninety seven
of renal failure at age fifty six.

Speaker 4 (36:26):
According to PBS, and not right away, but in a
couple of years. Congress did investigate the US Geological Survey's
use of funds and ended up cutting their funding and
completely doing away with the Department of Paleontology. Marsh was
forced to resign, and for the first time he had
to accept a salary from Yale. He died of pneumonia

(36:47):
in eighteen ninety nine, two years after Marsh, at the
age of sixty seven, he only had one hundred and
eighty six dollars in his bank account when he died.
Of all that Peabody money that had come to his
collection ended up in the Smithsonian and at Yale, and
part of Cope's collection ended up at the American Museum
of Natural History. That's like, those are the two or

(37:10):
the three winners in the story. I think the places
and us too. You know that we can go see them.

Speaker 3 (37:16):
Today, yeah, and that there's this interesting story for us
to look into. But looking at this result there doesn't
really seem to be like a winner at the end.
Neither of these guys seemed to really come out on top.
But of course they were both very accomplished overall, and
they both made major contributions to science. If you stack
up some of their accomplishments though side by side, what

(37:38):
does it look like. We wanted to take a look
at that, So first we'll look at the naming part
of it. Well, Marsh seemed to win when it came
to naming dinosaur species. He named eighty six out of
the one hundred and thirty some odd ones that they named.
Total Cope published war though according to Science Scope, his
record of twelve hundred publications is still unbeaten.

Speaker 4 (37:58):
Wow, I mean, I guess that is not Who's surprising
he won that side of the battle. Marsh notably provided
evidence for the theory of evolution two, which Darwin himself
called quote the best support of the theory of evolution
at the time. He found thirty specimens, for example, that
allowed him to outline the evolutionary history of the horse,

(38:19):
and he recognized similarities of the modern bird in extinct dinosaurs.

Speaker 3 (38:25):
Cope, on the other hand, because of his religious convictions,
probably didn't support Darwin's theory. But as Science Scope points out,
he's known for Cope's rule, which is the observation that
organisms of a species tend to get larger over time
in the fossil records. So it just depends on what
you're judging them by. Which one of them won.

Speaker 4 (38:45):
Yeah, and it certainly made me wonder too, how much
they accomplished because they did have the other one there
competing and egging him on, or whether they could have
accomplished more if they had worked in better concert together
than they did, not trying to sabotage each other's work
as much.

Speaker 3 (39:03):
No, but it's interesting, just another tidbit here. Their competition
continued a little bit even after the grave. About a
century after Cope's death, national geographic photographer Luis si Joios
got Cope's skull from the University of Pennsylvania. Cope had
willed his body to science, so this was available, and
he took the skull with him as he traveled around

(39:25):
the world interviewing paleontologists for a book, and he referred
to the skull as he was doing this as Eddie. Later,
he and paleontologist Robert Baker tried to have cope skull
named as the type specimen, which means that it would
have been the standard of a species to which all
others are compared. He wanted to have it named as
the type specimen for Homo sapiens, but it turned out
that the late botanist Caroless Linaeus had already been named

(39:48):
the type specimen for Homo sapiens.

Speaker 4 (39:50):
So thank goodness for Linnaeus able to step in there
with his skull and stop this feud from continuing after death.

Speaker 3 (40:00):
Yeah, I read elsewhere that one reason that Cope willed
his body to science is that he wanted them to
compare his skull size to Marsh's after Marsh died, But
Marsh didn't leave any sort of instructions to have his
skull studied after the fact, so they didn't ever get
to resolve that question.

Speaker 4 (40:18):
I think that's for the best.

Speaker 3 (40:20):
Yeah, it's better just to look at the story, look
at their accomplishments, and decide for yourself. I think who's
the winner. But I'm curious for listeners to write in
and tell us if they have a favorite in this war.
I know that in the War of the Currents, for example,
Tesla was the overwhelming favorite among our listeners at least,
and so I wonder, cope, Er, Marsh, do you have

(40:42):
a favorite?

Speaker 2 (40:42):
Sarah?

Speaker 3 (40:43):
Who do you think you would have been pals with? I?

Speaker 4 (40:45):
Well, I mean, I don't know. Do I pick the
guy who didn't have any friends? I mean, odds are
You're a nice person, so I could see they could
have made friends with Marsh. I don't know they I
found myself during this story kind of rooting for each
of them, and that for each of them, and then
thinking that they were each terrible, terrible people. So maybe

(41:06):
I'll pass on this.

Speaker 3 (41:07):
Yeah, Okay, you're taking you're pleading the fifth.

Speaker 4 (41:10):
Yeah, do you have a Do you have a pick?

Speaker 3 (41:13):
I mean, I guess I sort of agree with you,
although I found myself sympathizing with Cope a little bit more.
And maybe it's because some of the articles that I
read were more biased in that direction, but I think
it may also have a lot to do with the
fact that, at least from what I read, from the
evidence that I saw, it seemed that Marsh kind of
did the dirtier stuff, like the dynamiting of dig sites.

(41:34):
I didn't like that at all, So it's not cool.

Speaker 2 (41:41):
Thanks so much for joining us on this Saturday. Since
this episode is out of the archive, if you heard
an email address or a Facebook RL or something similar
over the course of the show, that could be obsolete now.
Our current email address is History podcast at iHeartRadio dot com.
You can find us all over so media at Missed
in History, and you can subscribe to our show on

(42:04):
Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, the iHeartRadio app, and wherever else
you listen to podcasts. Stuff You Missed in History Class
is a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows,

Stuff You Missed in History Class News

Advertise With Us

Follow Us On

Hosts And Creators

Tracy V. Wilson

Tracy V. Wilson

Holly Frey

Holly Frey

Show Links

AboutStoreRSS

Popular Podcasts

2. Amy and T.J. Podcast

2. Amy and T.J. Podcast

"Amy and T.J." is hosted by renowned television news anchors Amy Robach and T. J. Holmes. Hosts and executive producers Robach and Holmes are a formidable broadcasting team with decades of experience delivering headline news and captivating viewers nationwide. Now, the duo will get behind the microphone to explore meaningful conversations about current events, pop culture and everything in between. Nothing is off limits. “Amy & T.J.” is guaranteed to be informative, entertaining and above all, authentic. It marks the first time Robach and Holmes speak publicly since their own names became a part of the headlines. Follow @ajrobach, and @officialtjholmes on Instagram for updates.

3. The Dan Bongino Show

3. The Dan Bongino Show

He’s a former Secret Service Agent, former NYPD officer, and New York Times best-selling author. Join Dan Bongino each weekday as he tackles the hottest political issues, debunking both liberal and Republican establishment rhetoric.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.

Connect

© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.