O.C. Marsh goes online

28 03 2007

I must say I am overjoyed that the various works of Darwin, Wallace, are appearing online (although the copious amounts of text hurt my eyes and make me long to have all that information in book form), and the famous American paleontologist O.C. Marsh is the latest to have his works scanned in an posted. The format is photocopied pages, so it can be a little much on the eyeballs, but it is certainly interesting to read the work of one of the two men (Edward Drinker Cope being the other) at the forefront of North American paleontology at the time. I have yet to read through all the papers as yet, but there is one of particular interest that shows scientists having to deal with misplaced trackways; On the supposed human foot-prints recently found in Nevada. It’s short, so pop on over and check it out (note: it is a pdf and takes a minute to load up, at least on my hunk-of-junk computer).

Also of note is this article I was able to find from Marsh’s eternal rival, Cope. When I was a young wanna-be paleontologist it seemed that the revolution linking dinosaurs to birds was brand new, finally moving them out of the swamps and into active lifestyles. I’m not about to say that Cope’s ideas exactly mirrored those of Bakker, Ostrom, and more recent paleontologists, but he certainly did notice the dinosaur-bird connection. In an 1868 lecture to the Royal Institution entitled “On the animals most nearly intermediate between Birds and Reptiles“, Cope said;

…there can be no doubt that the hind quarters of the Dinosauria wonderfully approached those of birds in their general structure, and, therefore, that these extinct reptiles were more closely allied to birds than any which now live.

Indeed, Marsh and Owen nearly always get mentioned in some capacity in dinosaur books and documentaries, but up until now their work was essentially transmitted in soundbite form; they were famous and prolific and sought to out-compete one another. Finally, everyone has the chance to re-discover their work and hear their actual voices on the topic, rather than be content with simple vignettes pitting the two against each other over the course of a page or two.


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