Even though I won’t have a chance to start reading it until later this week (or next), I flipped through Henry Fairfield Osborn’s The Origin and Evolution of Life this morning and came across something a bit surprising. Preceding the book is a black and white photo of the Tyrannosaurus rex Barnum Brown found (and Osborn named) that resides in the American Museum of Natural History, the dinosaurs posture being the old tail-dragging one, of course. Underneath the photograph, however, is this caption;
Tyrannosaurus rex, THE KING OF THE TYRANT SAURIANS
The climax among carnivorous reptiles of a complex mechanism for the capture, storage, and release of energy. Contemporary and destroyer of the large herbivorous dinosaurs.
While I am not a personal H.F. Osborn historian, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a special fondness for the iconic dinosaur that he named (although Tyrannosaurus could have wound up with a very different moniker is history went differently). Even beyond the high profile public status of the dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus was apparently the biggest, the most fierce, and the overall “highest” of the dinosaurs, and given Osborn’s ideas about orthogenesis (essentially a driving, vital force behind evolution towards a more perfect or complex goal) and aristogenesis (more on this as I read the book) I’m not surprised that he would have a fondness for a dinosaur that embodied nearly limitless power and unstoppable competition. Indeed, Osborn seems to focus on the “energy” behind evolution and how that energy gives bodies form, chastising naturalists for looking at evolution’s end-products and working backwards in the book’s introduction. How these ideas will take shape due to Osborn’s ideas and beliefs, I have yet to find out, although given that this book is forgotten I’m not expecting to find much especially prescient or wise in the pages.