Aired Monday January 17th, 2011 at 8:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
In the summer of 1868, paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh boarded a Union Pacific train for an excursion through the heart of the newly-opened American West. While most passengers simply saw magnificent landscapes, Marsh soon realized he was traveling through the greatest dinosaur burial ground of all time.
Ruthless, jealous and insanely competitive, Marsh would wrestle over the discovery with the other leading paleontologist of his generation -- Edward Drinker Cope. Over time, the two rivals would uncover the remains of dozens of prehistoric animals, collect thousands of specimens, provide ample evidence to prove Charles Darwin's hotly disputed theory of evolution and put American science on the world stage. But their professional rivalry eventually spiraled out of control. What began with condescending comments in scientific publications, led to espionage, the destruction of fossils and political manipulation. American Experience: Dinosaur Wars airs Monday, January 17 at 8:00 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
In the decades following the Civil War and the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species, the new concept of "survival of the fittest" came to define both the science and the business entrepreneurs of the day, as ambitious men scrambled for control of unclaimed wealth on the western frontier. For paleontologists Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh, the prize was not timber, land, or precious metals, but the fossils of prehistoric beasts and primitive mammals embedded in the rugged landscapes of the American West.
The new transcontinental railroad put the ancient bone yards within reach of science for the first time. At stake in the vast and varied fossil fields of the West was an opportunity for someone to piece together and explain the history of life on Earth. For almost thirty years, Cope and Marsh competed ruthlessly for that distinction. The two scientists launched America's love affair with dinosaurs and the prehistoric past that continues to this day, but they also destroyed each other in the process. Discover their intriguing personal histories and the cutthroat, malicious rivalry that ultimately left both men alone and nearly penniless.
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