Charles Marsh was an American paleontologist who made extensive scientific explorations of the Western United States and who contributed greatly to knowledge of extinct North American vertebrates. Marsh spent his entire career at Yale University as the first professor of vertebrate paleontology in the United States. In 1882, he was placed in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey's work in vertebrate paleontology, aggravating a fierce rivalry between him and paleontologist Edward Cope.
Credited with the discovery of more than a thousand fossil vertebrates (including in 1871 the first pterodactyl found in the United States) and the description of at least 500 more, Marsh published major works on toothed birds, gigantic horned mammals, and North American dinosaurs. Marsh was also a strong early proponent of Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory.
Of special interest in The Othniel Charles Marsh Papers is the rather extensive correspondence Marsh carried on with many prominent scientists of the time, including Darwin, Leonard and Thomas Huxley, Simon Newcomb, and Benjamin Silliman Sr. and Jr. The letters are arranged alphabetically by last name of the writer. In addition, this collection contains diaries, notebooks, school notes and other papers. Also included are materials relating to Marsh's education, his involvment in The Cardiff Giant Hoax, and his role in the Red Cloud Agency Controversy, which was precipitated by Marsh's observation and subsequent reporting of how local agents of the Bureau of Indian Affairs had issued short and shoddy rations to their charges.
The Othniel Charles Marsh Papers will appeal to those studying science history and the history of the American West.
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