The Most Osseous War in U.S. History

By David A. Carrino
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2023, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in May 2023.

The movie Rocky III includes the song “Eye of the Tiger,” which was written by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik and was performed in the soundtrack by the band Survivor. The lyrics of this song focus on the necessity for dedication, tenacity, and effort in order to achieve an ardently sought goal. A line from “Eye of the Tiger” describes a change that sometimes occurs when a person is pursuing a strongly desired ambition. This line is “So many times it happens too fast, you trade your passion for glory.” This line conveys the transformation that people sometimes undergo in which the passion that drew them into the pursuit of a goal becomes a quest for fame. A person may initially desire to achieve a worthwhile objective for pure and honorable reasons, that is, to accomplish something simply because it is worth accomplishing and simply for the sake of accomplishing it. But the quest later becomes tarnished by a shift in the primary goal from the accomplishment, itself, to the less noble things that come with the accomplishment, such as public acclaim and financial riches. In this way, the person trades the passion of focusing on a worthwhile achievement and exchanges that passion for a pursuit of fame and fortune or some other less noble goals. The worthwhile goal may still be achieved even when the motives are less honorable, but the quest and the person making it become less admirable.

Such was the case for two men who engaged in a very contentious competition that began three years after the Civil War, took place during Reconstruction, and continued even after the official end of Reconstruction. Civil War enthusiasts are certainly familiar with Reconstruction, but the contentious competition that began in 1868 was happening at that same time. This competition was so contentious that it is named a war, although it was not a war in the literal sense of armed conflict. This ‘war’ is called the Bone Wars, and it was a lengthy series of incidents that extended over many years and encompassed a number of deliberate actions that were part of a single mean-spirited and counter-productive competition between two scientific adversaries. The two adversaries traded their passion toward scientific discovery in exchange for a malicious rivalry. Their competition had the added unsavory element that each man employed unethical and vindictive methods to try to ruin his rival. The name of the Bone Wars comes from the fact that this event involved two of America’s leading paleontologists of the late 19th century actively and destructively engaging in spiteful acts to thwart and discredit his nemesis. At the center of the Bone Wars was one of the largest amounts of dinosaur bones ever unearthed. Because of that, this event can truly be called the most osseous war in U.S. history.

The story of the Bone Wars is a saga with no protagonist and only antagonists, two of them: Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. Marsh was born in 1831 in upstate New York into a family that made its modest living by farming. Marsh’s eventual bitter rival, Cope, was of much different means. Cope was born nine years later in 1840 to a wealthy Quaker family in Philadelphia. Although Marsh’s family was not nearly as well-off as Cope’s, Marsh had a large source of financial support due to the serendipity and good fortune (no pun intended) of his father’s choice for a spouse. Marsh’s mother, who died when Marsh was not yet three years old, was the younger sister of wealthy financier and philanthropist George Peabody.

Perhaps because of the premature death of his sister and its effect on her husband and children, the philanthropic Peabody financed the education of his nephew, Othniel Marsh. This included four years at Yale College, from which Marsh graduated with honors in 1861. In contrast, Edward Cope did not need financial help from outside his immediate family for his education. Cope’s parents, whose wealth was derived from Cope’s father’s shipping business, began educating Cope at an early age and then in 1849 sent him to an excellent (and expensive) day school, where Cope received a strong education in mathematics, science, Latin, and other subjects. During this time, Cope began to take an interest in biology and expressed a desire to pursue a career in this field, although Cope’s father did not approve of this career choice and instead envisioned his son in a more rustic and unassuming livelihood as a farmer. In 1858 Cope was able to further his education in biology by working at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, where he catalogued specimens and subsequently published his results at the young age of 18.

Edward Cope in the 1860s

Meanwhile, Marsh received a post-graduate scholarship from Yale to study chemistry, geology, and mineralogy, and he obtained a master’s degree in 1863. After that, with financial backing from his uncle George Peabody, Marsh went to Germany to study in the field of paleontology. Around this same time, Cope’s father acceded to his son’s wishes for a college education and paid for Cope to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where Cope studied anatomy and paleontology under Joseph Leidy, the leading American paleontologist of that time. However, during 1863 and 1864, Cope left college and went to Europe ostensibly to study paleontology, but some historians surmise that Cope’s father sent him to Europe to avoid the draft that was in place in the Civil War. While Cope was in Germany, he met his future rival, Marsh. At the time that they met, the two men were contrasts in educational background. Marsh had an extensive formal education and possessed two college degrees, while Cope, who had attended an excellent school during his youth and had some education in college, lacked a college degree.

Othniel Marsh in 1865

Marsh, who had developed a strong reputation in the field of paleontology by this time, returned to the U.S. in 1866 and was appointed to the position of professor of vertebrate paleontology at Yale, which made him the first such professor in America. Later that year, at Marsh’s urging, George Peabody made a sizable donation to Yale to found the Peabody Museum of Natural History with Marsh named as a trustee. Cope returned to the U.S. in 1864, and his influential family was able to secure him a teaching appointment at Haverford College, a Quaker college near Philadelphia, although the college had to award Cope an honorary master’s degree in order for Cope to satisfy the criteria for the position. The following year Cope married Annie Pim, and their marriage produced a single child, daughter Julia, who was born in 1866. Marsh, on the other hand, never married.

Hadrosaurus skeleton

The two men were now positioned to begin their careers in paleontology, and the Bone Wars were about to commence. Interestingly, the two rivals at one time had a cordial but perhaps not amicable relationship. For instance, each of them named a fossil after the other one. Cope named an amphibian fossil Pytonius marshii after Marsh, while Marsh named an aquatic reptilian fossil Mosasaurus copeanus after Cope. But starting in 1868 the relationship deteriorated, and the Bone Wars began. Ironically this came about because Cope shared an important piece of information with Marsh. Some years before this time, Joseph Leidy, Cope’s mentor at the University of Pennsylvania, had reconstructed the skeleton of a bipedal dinosaur from bones found in a quarry in Haddonfield, New Jersey. This dinosaur, which Leidy named Hadrosaurus, was the first to have its skeleton mounted for public display, and this was done at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where Cope still had an affiliation after working there ten years earlier. In response to a request in a letter from Marsh, Cope gave Marsh a tour of the quarry where the Hadrosaurus bones had been found. During their time in the quarry, the two men even found fossils of three new species.

Marsh was awed by what he saw in the quarry, and he lusted to have control over it. Unbeknownst to Cope, shortly after Marsh was given a tour of the quarry, he struck a deal with the quarry’s owner to send any new fossil finds to Marsh at Yale in return for monetary payments. As Cope later stated, “Soon after, in endeavoring to obtain fossils from those localities, I found everything closed to me and pledged to Marsh for money.” This turned out to be the first shot of the Bone Wars.

Not surprisingly, Cope was irate when he learned what Marsh had done. For Cope, Marsh’s actions were a breach of scientific etiquette. This is because Cope was one of the gentlemen naturalists typical of that and preceding times, who worked in a spirit of collegiality. In contrast, Marsh did not embrace this philosophy and, given his social status, was an outsider to it. To Marsh’s way of thinking, making a deal with the owner of the quarry, while perhaps devious, was not unscrupulous or outside the boundaries of scientific decorum. It was simply a legitimate means to take advantage of an opportunity for personal advancement. It is not far-fetched that Marsh may have justified his actions by thinking that he, with the resources available to him at Yale, was better able to utilize the ancient materials that were waiting to be found in the quarry and to thereby more effectively unearth the scientific knowledge that was concealed in the quarry. In light of his beginnings in rural upstate New York, Marsh may have even rationalized his actions as a justifiable tactic toward a triumph of the farm boy over the high-society scientists. Whatever Marsh’s thinking was, by making a deal with the quarry’s owner, he maneuvered himself into an advantageous position to the detriment of Cope.

It was not long afterward that Marsh fired another shot, and this one hit Cope hard. Cope had earlier published his findings about the fossils of an aquatic dinosaur that he named Elasmosaurus, which was a type of plesiosaur. In that article Cope included a drawing of the reconstructed skeleton of Elasmosaurus, but the skeleton had a glaring and comical error. In the drawing of the reconstruction of the Elasmosaurus skeleton, Cope placed the skull at the end of the tail rather than at the end of the long neck. Marsh could see from the anatomy and orientation of the vertebrae that Cope had put the skull on the wrong end of the dinosaur, which was an embarrassing and truly boneheaded error (pun absolutely intended). Marsh made sure to point out Cope’s blunder, and according to some accounts he did so in a very public fashion to ensure that others in the field of paleontology would learn of Cope’s error. Cope was so humiliated that he attempted to purchase all of the copies of the erroneous article, but in this he was unsuccessful.

Cope’s drawing of the incorrectly reconstructed Elasmosaurus skeleton

In the early 1870s the competition between Marsh and Cope shifted into the American West, which became the next front in the Bone Wars. As railroads began to expand into the West, the construction of those railroads revealed large fossil fields. As it happens, parts of the American West, because of the climatic history of that region, are ideal locations for the preservation of fossilized remains that extend well back into prehistoric times. In 1870, after Marsh had received word of the fossil bonanza that lay waiting to be gathered by someone with the financial means to retrieve it, Marsh organized and led an expedition to those fossil fields. Even though Marsh had to be careful to limit his explorations to areas close to military forts for provisions and also for protection from possible attacks by Native Americans, Marsh’s expedition was enormously successful, and he recovered an immense number of fossils. Marsh made certain to publish his findings as quickly as he could to further cement his status in the field of paleontology.

Marsh’s rival, Cope, also became aware that the West was an incredible source of fossils, and he wanted to join the hunt. But while Marsh, because of his affiliation with Yale, had access to financial resources to outfit an expedition, Cope could not count on that from his institution, the Academy of Natural Sciences, which was not in the habit of financing such operations. Instead Cope, in 1872, used his personal finances for an expedition to fossil fields in Wyoming, which was one of the locations that Marsh had prospected during his expedition. After arriving there, Cope soon learned why rugged areas like that are called badlands, which had to be a jolt for the gentleman scientist from the East. Cope and the men that he hired endured gnats, fever, and excruciating weather. But they managed to unearth a wealth of fossils.

Marsh learned of Cope’s trek, and Marsh, who a few years earlier had made an underhanded financial deal to close Cope out from a fossil field in New Jersey, was not at all happy that Cope had turned the tables on him and ventured into fossil fields in the West that Marsh considered his own. Marsh organized another expedition into the region, and soon both Cope and Marsh were hunting for fossils near each other. Both men hurried to publish their findings, and this resulted in flawed publications with different names being given to the same species. In the months after Marsh and Cope returned from their fossil-finding expeditions, the two men worked to discredit the other’s findings. This disparaging of scientific results escalated into personal attacks that horrified others in the scientific community.

Marsh (back row, center) and some of his workers on an expedition
Cope in 1876

For over ten years afterward, Marsh and Cope organized fossil hunts into the West. One particularly intriguing one came in 1876. By this time Cope had received a sizable inheritance after the death of his father. This gave Cope much greater financial resources to fund his fossil expeditions, and he once more departed from his wife and then ten-year-old daughter to go on an expedition to Montana only weeks after George Armstrong Custer’s get-together with Lakota and other Native Americans at the Little Bighorn. When Cope arrived in Montana and tried to hire men to assist him, he found no one willing to join him. The locals warned him against his excursion and told him to arm himself if he did go. But Cope, a Quaker, could not bring himself to carry a gun. Eventually Cope was able to recruit a crew and undertake the expedition. At one point during the expedition, Cope wrote to his daughter Julia that it rained so hard “the high, bare badlands bluffs got slippery as soap so that we could hardly hunt for fossils.” But the expedition proved to be very successful.

A Diplodocus hindlimb at a dig site

The following year Marsh received a letter from a man named Arthur Lake, a schoolteacher in Colorado. While hiking, Lake saw fossilized bones that were larger than any ever before observed, and he notified Marsh about the bones and their location. Marsh quickly made a financial arrangement with Lake, but Lake had also let Cope know about this find. Very soon thereafter, Marsh received a letter from two railroad workers in Wyoming about a fossil field that the railroad workers claimed extended for seven miles and was extremely rich in fossils. Marsh again tried to make an exclusive arrangement for the place, but Cope also learned about this fossil field. Soon both men set up quarries and were recovering fossils, and these fossils were unlike anything ever found. These bones were from creatures that were among the largest to ever walk the Earth.

The proximity of the rivals’ quarries led to an intensification of the already intense competition. The workers that Marsh and Cope hired to work for them became actively involved in the competition, not just as diggers of fossils, but also as belligerents. Workers for both Marsh and Cope acted as spies to gather intelligence on the other one’s findings. At times on digs, some fossils were destroyed rather than risk them falling into the hands of the adversary. When workers were finished with a site and thought that there were no more fossils to be found, the site was dynamited to deprive the other side from finding any fossils that still might be buried there. One worker who was aligned with Marsh once observed two unidentified men in a quarry, and because he suspected them to be Cope’s workers, he climbed to a point above them and pelted them with rocks to drive them away. Marsh and Cope also coaxed men who worked for their rival to change sides and reputedly used bribes to advance their own scientific progress. One especially noteworthy such incident came when Cope convinced one of Marsh’s workers to change sides, and just at the time that this man began to work with Cope, Cope coincidentally came into possession of some of Marsh’s fossil specimens, which suggests that Cope’s new worker brought more than his digging skills to his new employment.

Continuing into the 1880s, Marsh and Cope followed a schedule of summer expeditions to the fossil fields of the West and winters of analyzing the fossils and publishing their findings. Along with publishing their own findings, Marsh and Cope publicly disparaged their rival’s findings and even their rival, himself. For example, Marsh insisted that Cope had backdated his results so he could claim to be the discoverer, and Marsh also asserted that Cope’s errors were “without parallel in the annals of science.” Marsh went on to state that those errors were not worth correcting, because Cope’s “blunders are hydra-headed, and life is really too short to spend valuable time in such an ungracious task.” Cope called Marsh’s allegations falsehoods by branding them “systematic innovations” and also said that some of Marsh’s statements “are either criminally ambiguous or untrue.” Cope declared that responding to Marsh was “unnecessary” because of Marsh’s “recklessness of assertion,” “erroneousness of statement,” and “incapacity of comprehending.” Cope also accused Marsh of being a poor practitioner of the scientific process and of plagiarizing his ideas from Cope’s publications.

The sniping between Marsh and Cope became so bitter that the scientific journal The American Naturalist, the journal in which Marsh and Cope published many of their results, refused to publish their articles any more. In an editorial in the journal, its editors stated, “We regret that Professors Marsh and Cope have considered it necessary to carry their controversy to the extent that they have. Wishing to maintain the perfect independence of the Naturalist in all matters involving scientific criticism, we have allowed both parties to have their full say, but feeling that now the controversy between the authors in question has come to be a personal one and that the Naturalist is not called upon to devote further space to its consideration, the continuance of the subject will be allowed only in the form of an appendix at the expense of the author.” This policy decision by the editors, particularly because it was directed at the two leading paleontologists of their time, is so out of the ordinary that it qualifies as something that can rightly be characterized with the hyperbolic and redundant phrase exceptionally, extraordinarily, uncommonly rare. That said, this decision is easily justified by the egregious and unprofessional behavior of Marsh and Cope.

It was during this period of the Bone Wars that Marsh one-upped Cope’s Elasmosaurus error with a spectacular blunder of his own. Cope’s mistake of putting the skull on the wrong end of a dinosaur is the stuff of comedy sketches. But Marsh’s error is probably the most well-known paleontological error and shows how the competition between the two men resulted in overly hasty work that led to erroneous results. In 1877 Marsh and his team found the fossils of a very large, long-necked quadrupedal dinosaur that Marsh named Apatosaurus. But this Apatosaurus skeleton was only a partial skeleton. Two years later Marsh and his team found another partial skeleton of a very large, long-necked quadrupedal dinosaur, which was nearly completely unearthed by 1883. Marsh concluded that the new find was that of a different creature, and Marsh gave it a different name: Brontosaurus. In 1903, four years after Marsh’s death, more careful analysis indicated that the two creatures are the same. Because scientific protocol is that the earlier name takes precedence, the name Brontosaurus was eliminated. (Recent analysis suggests that Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus may actually be distinct dinosaurs. If this conclusion can be definitively established, then the name Brontosaurus could be reinstated (The Brontosaurus is Back). However, there are some experts in paleontology who are not convinced that Brontosaurus should be considered a separate dinosaur (Is “Brontosaurus Back? Not So Fast! and Not So Fast, Brontosaurus).

John Wesley Powell

The Bone Wars reached their climax in the 1880s and early 1890s. As settlement of the West was expanding, the federal government wanted to consolidate all of the surveys that were being done there into one entity: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which was created in 1879. In 1882, when John Wesley Powell was the director of the USGS, Powell named Marsh to be the head paleontologist. With his new political connections, Marsh was able to have government funding of Cope’s work terminated. Cope had been funding much of his work with his personal fortune, but with the government funds gone, he needed to find a way to supplement his available revenue for some aspects of his work. Accordingly, Cope invested in silver mines in the Southwest. The mines did well initially, but by the mid-1880s their production dwindled, and Cope was forced to deplete most of his own funds to support his fossil work.

In addition to bringing about an end to Cope’s government funding, Marsh also used his political influence to try to strike a truly hurtful blow. Marsh convinced Powell that any fossils that had been discovered with government support should reside at the Smithsonian Institution (although Marsh cunningly created an exception for his own fossils, which could remain with Marsh at Yale). This meant that Cope would have to turn over to the Smithsonian Institution all of the fossils that he had found on expeditions that were supported by government funds. But Cope produced very detailed financial records to prove that his fossil hunts had been specifically supported by his personal funds. However, Marsh’s attempt to deprive Cope of his fossil collection was such a cruel ploy that Cope struck back hard.

Marsh’s mansion

For quite a few years, Cope had kept incredibly meticulous records detailing misdeeds, financial and otherwise, by Marsh and also by Powell. Cope, who around this time described Marsh as “the most consummate fraud in the country,” collaborated with a newspaper reporter to have a story published in the New York Herald in 1890 detailing multiple incidents of plagiarism and financial mismanagement by Marsh and misspending of federal revenues by Powell. This scandalous story was of some interest to the general public, but the interest in this story was, not surprisingly, much greater in Congress, which in 1892 curtailed the funds for the USGS. Marsh was forced to relinquish his USGS position, which was the start of his financial downfall. Marsh lost his government funding and his staff, and not long thereafter he had to mortgage his mansion to support his work. Now both Marsh and Cope found themselves in financial peril, and eventually both men became financially devastated. But the worst for Marsh came when the fate that Marsh had planned to inflict on Cope befell Marsh. Marsh was told in a message from the government to send his fossils to the Smithsonian Institution.

Cope also suffered a serious loss around this time in that Cope and his wife, Annie, separated in 1894. Their marriage had been strained for years by Cope’s long absences on expeditions and by his intense work schedule. To make matters worse, by 1896 Cope’s health began to fail, perhaps as a result of the many arduous treks to the West on fossil hunts. Beset by a number of debilitating health problems, he lived alone in an apartment in Philadelphia. The centerpiece of that apartment was Cope’s study, and in the center of that study was the stereotypically cluttered desk of a very dedicated but somewhat disorganized scientist. In the lower right drawer of that desk were the meticulous records that Cope had made about Marsh and Powell. During this time, Cope treated himself with morphine and belladonna, and his health continued to spiral downward until he died in 1897 at the age of 56 with most of his fortune gone. Cope’s death fulfilled a wish that Marsh had made two decades earlier. On a day in 1877 when Marsh was particularly incensed about his nemesis, one of Marsh’s workers happened to enter Marsh’s laboratory just after Marsh had finished reading a recent article by Cope. Filled with rage, Marsh grasped the article in his hand and exclaimed, “Gad. Gad! Godamnit! I wish the Lord would take him!”

Cope’s study in 1897

Cope specified in his will that his body be given to science, and in so doing he issued a challenge to Marsh for a post-mortem competition. Cope stipulated that his brain be examined to determine its size. At that time, brain size and weight were thought to correlate with intelligence. Cope’s rationale was that his brain was larger than Marsh’s brain, and perhaps Marsh would accept the challenge and have his brain size and weight determined after his death. But even if Marsh accepted the challenge, neither man would know who triumphed in this final competition, unless the two rivals had some way to access the results from the afterlife. Marsh survived for two years after Cope’s death and died in 1899 at the age of 67. Marsh, who never married, had no wife to be separated from and no immediate family to warm his old age. The man who once had a sizable fortune due to his wealthy uncle died with $186 in his bank account. Marsh, who has been described as living “a stunted life,” did not accept Cope’s challenge to compare the size of their brains. But even without that one final face-off comparing their cranial contents, the acrimonious competition between Marsh and Cope is so spellbinding that a movie about their paleontological competition was going to be made. Marsh was to be played by James Gandolfini, and Cope was to be played by Steve Carell. However, after Gandolfini’s untimely death in 2013, the movie was never made.

A movie about the Bone Wars would be compelling not only because of the captivating story of the rivalry, but also because the two main characters, Othniel Marsh and Edward Cope, had personalities that make it seem like they were fashioned in the mind of a writer of fiction specifically for the story. Cope has been described as impetuous, temperamental, and quarrelsome, and Marsh as glacial, self-directed, and unloved. Marsh was notorious for taking credit for the work of others and for being late in paying his workers, while Cope, though generally affable, could be snarky, which was exemplified well when he named an extinct mammal Anisonchus cophater (i.e., cope-hater) in recognition of Marsh’s animosity toward him. William Berryman Scott, a paleontologist who was a contemporary of Cope and Marsh and knew them both, said that Cope was “pugnacious” and “made many enemies.” Berryman was even more harshly critical of Marsh and said of Marsh, “I came nearer to hating him than any other human being that I have known.” Clearly, both Marsh and Cope were fascinating individuals who, without any embellishment, would make intriguing characters for a movie.

Despite their flaws, Marsh and Cope added an enormous amount of valuable information to paleontology. By the typical standards for assessing scientific productivity, both Marsh and Cope were extremely productive scientists. Marsh is credited with the discovery of 80 dinosaurs and Cope with 56. The dinosaurs discovered by Marsh and Cope include some of the most well-known, such as Allosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Diplodocus. But the accomplishments and the legacies of these two men are forever tainted by their malicious competition. Although competitions are useful in driving progress, and the Bone Wars competition certainly did this, the ruthlessness of the competition caused the work to be done far too hastily so that too many of the conclusions made by Marsh and Cope were deprived of the carefulness and thoroughness that are required to give scientific conclusions their usual soundness and validity.

Moreover, the motives that drove Marsh and Cope were not at all noble or scientifically altruistic. The advancement of paleontology may initially have been a significant motive that spurred Marsh and Cope into their fierce competition, but this was eventually joined by the equally significant motives of impeding and discrediting their rival. The goal of the competition was not just to add to scientific knowledge but to enhance personal acclaim, and for both men there was also an objective of adding to scientific knowledge in a way that denied that opportunity to their rival. The end result of their competition was unquestionably worthwhile for paleontology, but the warped motives of both Marsh and Cope rightly make these two men seem small and selfish. In that sense, both men exchanged their goal of scientific accomplishments for a vindictive rivalry. They traded their passion toward paleontology and scientific knowledge for a quest that sought not just personal glory, but exclusive glory, a monopoly on glory that would deprive their rival of any acclaim or even of any achievements.

By making this trade, Marsh and Cope underwent the transformation that is described in the aforementioned line from the song “Eye of the Tiger,” and they also showed the need for a recognition that is expressed well in a line from the song “Africa,” which was recorded by the rock band Toto. This recognition is experienced by some people who live for too long in a self-imposed dark place, and the line is, “I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become.” It is interesting to wonder if Marsh and Cope, in the quiet solitude of their reflective moments, ever questioned the atrocious deeds they had done, or if their hatred had so permeated and possessed their being that they came to feel that the thing they had become was the way they ought to be.

While it is indisputable that both Marsh and Cope made immense contributions to the field of paleontology, the venomous rivalry that consumed them was counter-productive and ultimately destroyed both of them. Both of these men have strong legacies as paleontologists, but their legacies are also defined by their unethical actions that were designed and intended to deprive their rival from making scientific contributions. Because of that, these two men are known to history as much for their perverse rivalry as they are for their accomplishments in paleontology. The relationship between Marsh and Cope was one that screamed for a collaborative arrangement wherein both men would receive credit for the discoveries. But neither man was willing to share credit, and for both of them, making discoveries became less about advancing the field of paleontology and more about preventing the other man from making scientific contributions. Who can say if the field of paleontology would have advanced more if Marsh and Cope had worked together instead of against each other? But for certain, their legacies would be much more admirable and honorable had they not engaged in their selfish, spiteful, and unprofessional competition. In the end, the most enduring legacy of the Bone Wars is that this was a war that had no winner. Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, the Bone War’s two antagonists, both lost the war.

A number of sources were used for this article. The most useful sources are as follows.

The 20-Year Bone Wars That Changed History by Bob Strauss

The Two Paleontologists Who Had a Bone to Pick with Each Other

The Fossil Hunters Who Went to War over Dinosaur Bones by Allison McNearny

The Great Feud by Tom Huntington

The Bitter Dinosaur Feud at the Heart of Paleontology by Martha Henriques

Professor Cope Vs. Professor Marsh by James Penick Jr.

Bone Thugs-N-Disharmony by Daniel Engber

The Bone Wars: How a Bitter Rivalry Drove Progress in Paleontology by Brian Switek

This Means War! A History of the Bone Wars by Clare Flemming

Dinosaur Wars (program transcript from the PBS broadcast on American Experience)

The Bone Wars: A Real Life Battle for Bones by Chris Wells (Houston Museum of Natural Science)

Edward Cope, Othniel Marsh, and the “Bone Wars” by Lenny Flank

Bone Warrior by Dennis Drabelle

Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) by Karla T. Moeller

Haddonfield and the ‘Bone Wars’ by Hoag Levins

The Bone Wars That Made Dinosaurs So Popular by Garrett Kruger and Sabrina Ricci

The Brontosaurus Is Back by Charles Choi; Scientific American; April 7, 2015

Not So Fast, Brontosaurus by Michael D’Emic

Is “Brontosaurus” Back? Not So Fast! by Donald Prothero

Brontosaurus or Apatosaurus? by American Museum of Natural History

The Big Dinosaur Debate: Is It an Apatosaurus or Brontosaurus? by Mark Mancini

The Bonehunters’ Revenge by David Rains Wallace (1999)

Bone Wars: Steve Carrell and James Gandolfini to Play Battling Paleontologists by Rachel Edidin