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Dinosaur Bone War: Cope and Marsh's Fossil Feud    by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel Amazon.com order for
Dinosaur Bone War
by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In Dinosaur Bone War: Cope and Marsh's Fossil Feud, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel tells the true story of two intellectuals in dispute over finds of old bones/fossils. Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh both had the same passion and their childhood years ran parallel. They began as friends, sharing information, but later became bitter rivals in what was then a 'new field of science paleontology'. Marsh and Cope were said to be ahead of the times - though enemies, their names became linked forever.

We read that 'On a bitter cold Wyoming day in 1878, two men hurried over the prairie with shovels and picks. They worked for a famous scientist named O. C. Marsh, and their job was to dig large pits, called quarries, in the prairie of Como Bluff.' They were to uncover 'ancient wonders' of bones, skulls, teeth and more and 'dinosaurs so huge they made elephants look like rabbits'! The men worked in secrecy, sending results in code to Marsh's office in Connecticut. Even though Marsh took extreme measures to hide the excavation at Como Bluff, a stranger was hanging around the site, and Marsh knew just who that stranger was working for Edward Cope!

The first chapter - The Birth of Paleontology - sets the tone: 'Over 65 million years after the last dinosaur died off and the last species became extinct, the world knew almost nothing about dinosaurs. In the nineteenth century, the field of fossil study ... paleontology, was a relatively new science.' The word dinosaur was not known before the nineteenth century. British scientist Sir Richard Owen discovered fossils that he determined belonged to a completely different category of animals. Owen assigned the name Dinosauria, meaning terrible lizard. The author writes of Marsh and Cope's competition and takes the reader through history, including the Neanderthal period, Cro-Magnon jewelry 35,000 years old, and early Greek and Roman writing. She tells us that Hindus and Native Americans 'believed that fossils were sacred objects'.

Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's other books for early and middle grade readers include Ice Story: Shackleton's Lost Expedition; As Far as the Eye Can Reach: Lewis and Clark's Westward Quest; and Balto and the Great Race.

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