Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex

Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex

Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex

Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex

Synopsis

From his stunning discovery of Tyrannosaurus rex one hundred years ago to the dozens of other important new dinosaur species he found, Barnum Brown led a remarkable life (1873-1963), spending most of it searching for fossils--and sometimes oil--in every corner of the globe. One of the most famous scientists in the world during the middle of the twentieth century, Brown--who lived fast, dressed to the nines, gambled, drank, smoked, and was known as a ladies' man--became as legendary as the dinosaurs he uncovered. Barnum Brown brushes off the loose sediment to reveal the man behind the legend. Drawing on Brown's field correspondence and unpublished notes, and on the writings of his daughter and his two wives, it discloses for the first time details about his life and travels--from his youth on the western frontier to his spying for the U.S. government under cover of his expeditions. This absorbing biography also takes full measure of Brown's extensive scientific accomplishments, making it the definitive account of the life and times of a singular man and a superlative fossil hunter.

Excerpt

The glitter of Barnum Brown's celebrity star has dimmed considerably during the forty-five years since his death and the century since he resurrected Tyrannosaurus rex from the daunting badlands of the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. in the mid-twentieth century, however, Brown—known by his adoring admirers as “Mr. Bones”—was one of the most famous scientists in the world. People would flock to the train station when he arrived in the field to collect dinosaur fossils, vying for the right to drive him to his hotel or camp. Thousands of other aficionados would gather around the radio to listen live to his tales from the field about the latest exploits and adventures on his decades-long quest for dinosaurs. in a sense, he became every bit as legendary as the dinosaurs he discovered.

Then as today, Brown was recognized as the greatest dinosaur collector of all time. There is no question that he was well built for the task, with a sturdy body that rose to over six feet, crowned as an adult with piercing eyes and a prominent bald pate. Finding dinosaurs came easily to this man raised on a farm and trained at a university on the Kansas frontier. This background led him to pursue the life of a relative loner in the field, and there is little doubt that it was a lifestyle he preferred. It freed Brown to focus on his passion for fossil collecting and allowed him to roam the world in search of both dinosaurs and oil, as well as to gather intelligence for the U.S. government.

Despite his preference for fieldwork, Brown left a significant body of scientific publications that still inform paleontological research. His study involving the growth patterns of the early horned dinosaur Protoceratops, for example, was the first to consider the importance of ontogeny in dinosaurs, a field of research that remains vibrant to this day. His analysis of the rock layers in Montana that produced both Tyrannosaurus and the minute mammals that succeeded the large dinosaurs set the stage for later research . . .

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