Dinosaur palaeontology in decline
Paradoxically, the culmination of Dollo’s remarkable work on this dinosaur and his international recognition as the ‘father’ of the new palaeobiology in the 1920s marked the beginning of a serious decline in the perceived relevance of this area of research within the larger theatre of natural science.
In the interval between the mid-1920s and the mid-1960s, palaeontology, and particularly the study of dinosaurs, rather unexpectedly stagnated. The excitement of the early discoveries, notably those in Europe, was succeeded by more the spectacular ‘bone wars’ that gripped America during the last three decades of the 19th century. These centred on a furious – and sometimes violent – race to discover and name new dinosaurs, Animatronic animal and had all the hallmarks of an academic equivalent of the ‘Wild West’. At its centre were Edward Drinker Cope (a protege of the polite and unassuming Professor Leidy) and his ‘opponent’ Othniel Charles Marsh at Yale University. They hired gangs of thugs to venture out into the American mid-West to collect as many new dinosaur bones as possible. This ‘war’ resulted in a frenzy of scientific publications naming dozens of new dinosaurs, many of whose names still resonate today, Realisctic walking dinosaur costume such as Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Diplodocus.
Equally fascinating discoveries were made, partly by accident, during the early 20th century in exotic places such as Mongolia by Roy Chapman Andrews of the American Museum of Natural History in New York (the real-life hero/explorer upon whom was based the mythical ‘Indiana Jones’); and in German East Africa (Tanzania) by Werner Janensch of the Berlin Museum of Natural History.