Science journalist Brian Switek, who blogs for Wired magazine, covered the research of SMU vertebrate paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs and the infamous Bone Wars of the late 1800s.

The Bone Wars was a flurry of fossil speculation across the American West that escalated into a high-profile national feud. Drawn into the spectacle were two scientists from the Lone Star State, geologist Robert T. Hill, now acclaimed as the Father of Texas Geology, and naturalist Jacob Boll, who made many of the state’s earliest fossil discoveries.

Hill and Boll had supporting roles in the Bone Wars through their work for one of the feud’s antagonists, Edward Drinker Cope, according to Jacobs’ new study.

See an SMU video and press release about the research, “Texas frontier scientists who uncovered state’s fossil history had role in epic Bone Wars.”

A professor in Dedman College‘s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Jacobs joined SMU’s faculty in 1983.

Currently his field projects include work in Mongolia and Angola. His book, “Lone Star Dinosaurs” (1999, Texas A&M University Press) was the basis of an exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History that traveled the state. He consulted on the new exhibit, Mysteries of the Texas Dinosaurs, which opened in 2009.

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By Brian Switek

No episode in the history of American paleontology has been as discussed, and celebrated, as the Bone Wars of the late 19th century. This contentious scientific showdown, played out during the days of the Wild West, set the foundation for fossil studies in North America, and introduced naturalists and the public alike to magnificent creatures such as Diplodocus, Uintatherium, and Dimetrodon (to pick just three of dozens).

The main figures during this controversial episode were friends-turned-rivals E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh. Both were experienced in the field, but, especially as they cemented their credentials as America’s leading paleontologists, both men increasingly relied on field assistants and a network of scientific connections to keep fossils flowing to their east coast labs.

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