Monday, November 18, 2013

William Temple Hornaday and the T-Rex

In my last posting I mentioned how Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, and the New York Zoological Society named tyrannosaurus rex,  perhaps the most famous dinosaur. What I neglected to mention is the role William Temple Hornaday played in this paleontological development. It was one of the little stories that never made it into The Most Defiant Devil due to word count and a desire to keep the narrative fluid and focused. Tangents about dinosaurs and other trimmings found their way to the cutting room floor. On a hunting trip along Hell Creek in Montana, Hornaday came across a field of dinosaur bones. Among other things, he recognized the distinct skull of a Triceratops. Although the skull itself was badly damaged and fractured, Hornaday brought one of its horns to New York City to demonstrated the potential of this unknown fossil cache. Henry Fairfield Osborn sent one of his men, who unearthed the remains of what Hornaday described in a magazine article reprinted in A Wild-Animal Round-Up as, "predatory, and carnivorous to the utmost." He continued the story. "A skull, four feet long, and set with frightful teeth, was unearthed and sent to New York; and in due time the world was introduced to Tyrranosaurus [sic.] Rex, the Tyrant Dinosaur, late of Hell Creek." (emphasis in the original, both quotes are on page 80).

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