Wednesday, March 28, 2012

True Tales from the Science Wars

The prolonged rivalry between between pioneering paleontologists O. C. Marsh and Edward Cope is rich territory for adventure. The link provides more detail, but the elevator version is this:

In the late 19th Century, two rival scientists used the forces of academia, bureaucracy, and the occasional private army to wage a bitter war for America's dinosaur bones. 

The facts are entertaining on their own, but we don't have to look far to spice them up with a What If? or two.

What if the remains being shipped back East weren't actually ancient fossils, but newly cleaned bones? Maybe these scientists discovered the Valley of Gwangi. In real life, Buffalo Bill served as a guide on Marsh's first bone-hunting expedition. It seems only fitting that Cope might have enlisted Turok, Son of Stone to do the same for him. We just need to convince Mark Shultz to illustrate the damn thing.

What if the fossil hunt led to a much larger discovery? Y'know, like the remains of an ancient alien city or something. Why should Antarctica have all the fun? I'll play Cowboys vs Shoggoths any day, thank you very much. Miskatonic University would soon be involved, as would the Smithsonian and the US Geological Survey (with whom Marsh holds considerable sway). I'm betting George Custer and the 7th Cavalry stop buy just to make sure these "aliens" aren't Lakota or Sioux. Gary Gianni could draw the crap out of this one.

Regardless, it's a given that the very non-dead Secret President Abraham Lincoln has his robotic eye on all this.

Further material on the real life version of these events can be found in the PBS film Dinosaur Wars and in the mightily illustrated Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards.


  1. we have to have a beer sometime and I'll talk your ear off about the American Museum of Natural History, the buried dinosaur statues in Central Park and the mysterious burning of Barnum's Museum. The book Dinosaurs in the Attic has a great, gossipy run-down of the story.

  2. Academic conspiracy beers are my favorite kind of beers.