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The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science
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The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  104 ratings  ·  17 reviews
It was an age of counterfeit giants, avaricious robber barons, corrupt politicians, intrepid pioneers, fierce Indian chiefs, and dinosaurs. The second half of the nineteenth century -- the so-called Gilded Age -- was a time when Americans were exploring the West and building a nation that would stretch from coast to coast.

It was also a time of scientific ferment. Charles
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 7th 2000 by Crown
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Richard Derus
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud! It's an excellent drama of hatred, rivalry and old bones.
Feb 22, 2016 rated it liked it
It was interesting and full of information but I'm just glad its done. I am not unhappy that I read it but it was not quite what I was looking for.

I think I wanted a story about what it was like out on a field site in the early days of digging up dinosaur bones in America. This book was that in a small way but much, much more! More than I wanted to know. A great history lesson, just very very dry.
Thomas Holbrook
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
When it was first suggested that I read this volume I was resistant, as I had already read Lanham’s The Bone Hunters and felt I had been sufficiently schooled in the Cope/Marsh dinosaur fossils “war”. While Lanham’s book did a good job of introducing the battle, it was a mere shadow of what, according to this volume, actually occurred and what were the ramifications of those actions. As is true with all books dealing with history or historical events, there are many names, dates, events that ...more
Kristi Thielen
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jaffe’s engrossing book details the intertwined lives and feuding history of paleontologists O.C. Marsh and E. D. Cope. The story takes place during the 19th century rise and growth of science and scientific institutions in the United States, so the reader learns cultural and political as well as scientific history.

That each man was a remarkable scientist is beyond repute. But their contempt for each other and their insatiable desire to not just triumph over their “adversary” but to actually
Glenn Robinson
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
For most, this book might be dull and boring, but for dinosaur fans and history buffs, this is a very in depth history of two early giants of the dinosaur world-Marsh and Cope-and the competition the two had for more, bigger and exciting specimens. This competition brought them into the worlds colliding-Chief Sitting Bull & George Custer, JP Morgan and other financiers, Presidents Grant, Garfield, Hayes and Cleveland.

Imagine going to tell all the important Native American chiefs that you
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Very thorough and well-written, if not entertaining. Somewhere between narrative and expository writing that attempts to garner excitement and adventure only to lose the feeling in pushing political figures around the board.
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: c19, paleontology, own
This is not a good history. It's full of colorful anecdotes about Cope, Marsh, and their historical context, but it's horribly organized, both from chapter to chapter and paragraph to paragraph.

The author is uncritical and unreflective, which makes for a book that's rich in chaotic detail, but impoverished for analysis. I got so tired of the meandering, oblivious style that I stopped reading a quarter of the way through.

This is such an important chapter in the history of science that it's a
Alexa Billow
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
(also posted to

An account not only of perhaps the most infamous rivalry in the history of science, but of how the word "science" came into use in the United States and the birth of the academy. If you are looking for a book strictly about paleontology, this is not it: it deals heavily in politics, from the Grant administration's Indian policy to the assassination of President Garfield and how these things affected science policy and funding. If you like that sort of
Rebecca Dockum
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A little known fossil war between Cope and Marsh over who would make the greatest discovery of ancient bones is the theme of The Gilded Dinosaur. This non-fiction is a good read which reviles facts of how prehistoric bones came to be displayed in our nations prominent museums.

I hadn't a clue what a controversial period this was for scientific exploration. Mark Jaffe does a good job keeping the material in layman's terms yet he is thorough in his research and explaining the dynamics that went
Aug 26, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the rivalry between Cope and Marsh is fascinating. However, the way this author tells the story is simply frustrating. There are countless typos and grammatical errors. Remember those college research papers you waited til the last minute to start on? This reads like one of those. The first hundred pages or so of the book are painful to get through. Nearly every sentence is made up more of quotes from letters Cope or Marsh or their contemporaries wrote than the author's own words. ...more
Rachel Rogers
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Also an analysis of American policy toward Native Americans in the 19th Century. Cope and Marsh were 2 American dinosaur enthusiasts who turned it into a huge battle for supremacy in the field of paleontology and American science. The book is fascinating in the number of dinosaurs that each discovered bones for and how prolific the west was for finding them. However, both Cope and Marsh were rude, obnoxious "SOBs" who cared more about naming rights and their alliances than the science. The tales ...more
Melissa McCauley
Jun 25, 2010 rated it liked it

My paleontology professor (a great raconteur) used to tell Cope/Marsh stories – which is why I bought this book in the first place (and a geeky love of fossils). Uncle… I give up. The thought of reading any more of this was making me grind my teeth.

A juicy story about scientific backstabbing, skullduggery, theft, slander, and venomous, snarky epistles … is surprisingly boring in Jaffe’s hands. The narrative quickly becomes bogged down in all the socio-economic and political
Ben Brackett
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
What I enjoyed is the author made this a very interesting read by speaking about not just dinosaurs, but the impact of the men on science as a field, their involvement with politics and Indian relations, and a myriad of other issues of the day. What I didn't enjoy is the author wrote at times like it was intended to be read by a 5 year old - lines like "And just who do you think was upset about this? Marsh!" Detracted from the overall thoroughly researched and laid out novel.
Lou Yuhasz
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Exhaustive. No Really. It tells you everything you would want to know about the development of Paleontology and Science in mid to late 19th century America. It's a facinating account of the rivalry between Marsh and Cope, But seems to be a day by day account of thirty years worth of infighting.
Ben Stutzman
Jun 30, 2009 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
A good history for paleontology nerds. Dry, but what an interesting story.
Rudolph Pascucci
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great overall view of the early history of paleontology in the United States...BUT the WORST editing I have ever encountered in any book I have ever read!
Beau Smith
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great book and very interesting. Opens up a world unknown to most.

Beau Smith
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