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Edward Drinker Cope

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Edward Drinker Cope
Cope Edward Drinker 1840-1897
Vital statistics
Name Othniel Charles Marsh
Gender Male
Born July 28, 1840

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Died April 12, 1897 (aged 56)
Nationality United States

Edward Drinker Cope (July 28, 1840 – April 12, 1897) was an American paleontologist and comparative anatomist, as well as a noted herpetologist and ichthyologist.

Born to a wealthy Quaker family, Cope quickly distinguished himself as a child prodigy interested in science; he published his first scientific paper in 1859. Cope married his cousin and had several children, moving closer to the marl pits of Haddonfield, New Jersey to be near fossil finds.

Cope is best known for his highly publicized Bone Wars with O. C. Marsh. A race to separately publish their findings, and thus prioritize their discoveries, consumed both Marsh's and Cope's finances and lives. Cope traveled the American West searching for fossils. His staunch resolve in his belief of Neo-Lamarckism was the subject of ridicule by many of his peers at the American Philosophical Society and by his greatest enemy, O. C. Marsh.

Along with his rival, Cope helped define the field of American paleontology. Cope's writing was prodigious, with a record 1,200 papers published over his lifetime. He named dozens of species of dinosaurs, and in total named more than 1,000 vertebrate species. His most established theories on the origin of mammalian molars and the Cope’s Law on the gradual enlargement of mammalian species are considered his best generalized theories.

Bone WarsEdit

Cope's relations with Marsh led to a competition for bones between the two, known today as The Bone Wars, which lasted from about 1877 to 1892. The conflict began upon the men's return to the United States. They wrote letters to each other and when Cope moved to his Haddonfield home, they visited the New Jersey marl pits together. Cope introduced Marsh to the owner of the pits, Albert Vorhees. This was the start of the many interpersonal problems the two would have over their careers. Marsh would go behind Cope’s back and privately arrange for all the fossils that Vorhees’s men found to be sent back to Marsh at New Haven.

In 1870 the two men had a falling out of sorts. Marsh was at Haddonfield examining one of Cope’s fossil finds, the Elasmosaurus, which was a complete skeleton of a large aquatic plesiosaur that had four flippers and a long neck. Marsh commented that the fossil’s head was on the wrong end, evidently stating that Cope had put the skull at the end of the vertebra of the tail. Cope was outraged and the two argued for some time until the two agreed to have Joseph Leidy come examine the bones and see who was right. Leidy came and simply picked up the head of the fossil and put it on the other end. Cope was horrified since he had already published a paper on the fossil that had the error in it at the American Philosophical Society. He immediately tried to buy back all the copies, but some remained floating around (Marsh kept his as did Leidy). The whole ordeal might have passed easily enough had Leidy not exposed the cover up at the next society meeting, not to in any way alienate Cope but only in response to Cope’s brief retracted statement where he never admitted he was wrong. A few weeks later Cope paid a visit to the marl pits and found that men in Marsh’s employment were busy collecting in an area that Cope had thought his own. The two would never talk to each other amicably again.

Cope was described by all as a genius and what Marsh lacked in intelligence, he easily made up for in connections. Marsh’s uncle was George Peabody, a rich banker who founded the Peabody Museum at Yale. He supported Marsh with money, as well as a secure position at the Peabody museum. His uncle’s money allowed Marsh to pay off anyone, while the political connections, as high as Ulysses S. Grant. Marsh urged John Wesley Powell to request fossils Cope had collected during government surveys and attempted to persuade Ferdinand Hayden, to “muzzle” Cope’s publishing. Both men tried their hardest to spy on the other’s whereabouts and attempted to offer their collectors more money in the hopes of recruiting them to their own side. Cope was able to recruit David Baldwin in New Mexico and Frank Williston in Wyoming from Marsh. They were both extremely secretive as to where there fossils were coming from and when Henry Osborn, at the time a student at Princeton, visited Cope to ask where he and some of his classmates should travel to look for fossils in the West, Cope politely denied them access to the knowledge of where the fossil fields were in Kansas.

When Cope arrived back in the United States after his tour of Europe in 1878, he had nearly two years of fossil findings from O.W. Lucas, a man digging for him in the Morrison Formation of Jurassic sandstone outside Canon City, Colorado. Among these dinosaurs would be the Camarasaurus, a dinosaur that today is one of the most recognizable recreations of this time period. The summer of 1879 took Cope to Salt Lake City, San Francisco and north to Oregon, where he was amazed at the rich flora and the blueness of the Pacific Ocean. In 1879 the United States congress consolidated the survey team into one, U.S. Geological Survey with Clarence King as its leader. This was discouraging because King immediately named his old college buddy and intimate friend, O.C. Marsh, as the chief paleontologist. Cope’s intimate and cordial relationship with his own fossil collectors insured that they stayed loyal to him, no matter how much Marsh offered them to come to his service. Charles Sternberg, J.L. Wortman and David Baldwin were especially prolific, securing some of the finest fossils of the time.

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