By John P. LevellMonday, March 5, 2001
The "Saga of Sue," a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus rex found in the Badlands of South Dakota in 1990 and named for its discoverer Sue Hendrickson, is undoubtedly a familiar story to most Americans. Indeed, intense media coverage of the lengthy legal battle waged over ownership of this 65 million year-old fossil and its eventual purchase by Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History for somewhere in the neighborhood of 7.5 million dollars has arguably made "Sue" the most famous dinosaur in the world.
Many may be surprised to learn, however, that a war fought over the remains of a dinosaur is by no means unheard of in the annuals of science. In fact, the battle for Sue is strangely reminiscent of another far greater dinosaur war waged in the western United States from the early 1870s through the 1880s. A war fought by two rival paleontologists whose hatred for one another was so intense it spawned an unending feud destined to outlast even death.
Both men were among the most powerful and influential scientific figures of their era, a fact guaranteed to garner the attention of the "yellow-journalistic" minded newspaper editors of the age. The New York Times and other prominent eastern periodicals, as always savoring controversy, eagerly publicized the triumphs and accusations of either side. Adding additional fuel to the fire both men were independently wealthy, although their respective roads to fame were to begin quite differently.
The older of the two, Othniel Charles Marsh, was born into a Lockport, New York family on the brink of poverty in October 1831. Going from bad to worse, his mother died when Marsh was three leading to an unsettled childhood spent in a chaotic ever-revolving assortment of homes. In one of life’s quirky twists of fate, however, the older brother of Marsh’s mother was none other than multi-millionaire George Peabody. Although having little use for Marsh’s father, Peabody was interested in the welfare of his sister’s son and arranged for O.C. (as Marsh came to be called) to receive a small "nest egg" upon reaching the age of twenty. Marsh wisely used this money to enter Phillips Academy, the equivalent of a modern day high school, graduating at the ripe old age of twenty-five.
Impressed with his nephew’s fortitude and good sense, Uncle George next paid for six years of college at Yale and financed two additional years of study in Euro .....[Read the Rest]