The tale of the epic rivalry between two foundational paleontologists to find bigger and better bones in the American West, perfect for readers of Steve Sheinkin and Candace Fleming.
Today we take for granted the idea that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. But two hundred years ago, the very concept of an extinct species did not exist. When an English scientist proposed in 1841 that Dino Saurs ("terrible lizards") had come and gone, it was only a theory, a new way of explaining the "dragon" and "giant" bones scattered across the globe. But when proof turned up seventeen years later, it was not only incontrovertible; it was massive.
Tooth and Claw tells the story of the feverish race between two brilliant, driven, and insanely competitive scientists--Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh--to uncover more and more monstrous fossils in the newly opened Wild West. Between them, they discovered dozens of major dinosaur species and established the new discipline of paleontology in America. But their bitter thirty-year rivalry--a "war" waged on wild plains and mountains, in tabloid newsprint, and in Congress--dramatically wrecked their professional and private lives even as it brought alive for the public a vanished prehistoric world.
The title of this account aptly references both the breakthrough discoveries and the obsessive rivalry between two 19th-century American paleontologists. Born into a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Edward Cope was a self-taught prodigy with a passion for the natural sciences. While traveling in Europe, Cope met Othniel Charles Marsh, who would become Yale's first professor of paleontology, and the two bonded over their shared ambition before "the blade of rivalry" severed their friendship. Noyes (The Magician and the Spirits) provides a snappily written account of the equally indomitable scientists' frenzied race to be the first to locate, excavate, and assemble dinosaur bones and name species. Laced with jealousy, betrayal, sabotage, and revenge, this quest brings them to various sites as their professional and personal enmity plays out in the press. The author provides insight into the rivals' outsize personalities and casts their story against the volatile political, territorial, and economic landscapes of the era. Still, while she acknowledges that white Americans were then conducting an "attack on the Plains Indians' way of life," her language veers into bias in places, generalizing the Crow as "congenial" and "peaceful" and some lands as "unknown terrain." Sidebars and cameos give the book additional historical context. Ages 10 up.