Spring Snow Storm. Field Season 2010. Photo by P. J. Currie
Dinosaur research in North America during the 1930’s - 40’s, was severely hampered, but a few like Edwin Colbert managed to keep on digging. Colbert’s two autobiographies, A Fossil Hunter’s Notebook, and Digging Into The Past, are a captivating record of his life and the profession between the time of the Wright Brother’s first flight and the modern Laptop computer. His professional career began
as the personal assistant of Henry Fairfield Osborn, who knew Charles Darwin, and spans an important period of paleontological research history, that includes his own startling discoveries in Antarctica. Colbert wrote many books on dinosaurs, but it is the unassuming story of his own life that is the most fascinating.
Despite these many earlier efforts, the method of reproduction in dinosaurs was poorly understood. Although dinosaur eggs had been found at least as early as 1923, evidence of babies was exceedingly rare. In Digging Dinosaurs, John Horner and James Gorman, provide an enjoyable personal account of the first major discovery of baby dinosaurs.
Beginning with a chance discovery of fragments in a rock-shop, Horner and his team searched the Montana badlands for several years before discovering the source. The story is one of perseverance, human tragedy, frustration, and in the end, success. Digging Dinosaurs provides a window into the life of the modern dinosaur hunter, who despite computers, GPS units, and four-wheel drive vehicles, must still endure long months searching on foot, and more often, on hand and knee.
Horner used these remarkable discoveries to advance his own radical notions about dinosaur ecology, and these new ideas caused paleontologists to seriously review old theories. While many scientists were supportive of Horner’s ideas, some decidedly not, the discoveries caught the public’s attention around the world. Ultimately, Digging Dinosaurs shows that dinosaur paleontology is still very much alive, and in a state of constant change as new evidence is found to support or defeat previously held ideas.
Dinosaur hunters like Philip Currie, Dale Russell, and Peter Dodson are still traveling the globe, excavating new specimens, and publishing important research that expands our knowledge of the dinosaurs. At present they are too involved with the task at hand to reflect on their own accomplishments. We can only encourage their work, and trust that they too will take time to record their lives spent in the shadow of dinosaurs.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
A SELECTED CHECKLIST
Autobiographical accounts have also been written by dinosaur paleontologists from Europe and Asia, unfortunately many of these works are not yet available in English. Additionally, there are accounts by paleontologists not involved with dinosaur research that are equally worthy of reading and collecting.
Brown, Lilian. I Married A Dinosaur. NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1950.
Bring ‘Em Back Petrified. London: The Adventurer’s Club, 1958
Colbert, Edwin H. A Fossil Hunter’s Notebook: My Life with Dinosaurs and other Friends. NY: E. P. Dutton, 1980.
Digging Into The Past: An Autobiography. NY: Dembner Books, 1989.
Grady, Wayne. The Dinosaur Project: The Story of the Greatest Dinosaur Expedition Ever Mounted. Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1993.
Horner, John R. Digging Dinosaurs: The Search that Unraveled the Mystery of Baby Dinosaurs. With James Gorman. NY: Workman Publishing, 1988.
Kielan-Jaworowska, Zofia. Hunting For Dinosaurs. Mass.: MIT Press, 1969. [Originally published in Poland as: Polowanie na Dinozaury.]
Novacek, Michael J. Dinosaurs Of The Flaming Cliffs: The Thrilling Account of one of the Largest Dinosaur Expeditions of the 20th Century by the Expedition Leader. NY: Doubleday, 1996.
Parkinson, John. The Dinosaur In East Africa: An Account of the Giant Reptile Beds of Tendaguru, Tanganyika Territory. London: H. F. & G. Witherby, 1930.
Sternberg, Charles H. The Life Of A Fossil Hunter. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1909.
[500 copies privately printed.]
Hunting Dinosaurs In the Badlands Of The Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada.
Kansas: World Company Press, 1917.
[500 copies privately printed.]
Letters Home from the Bone Camps. Annals of a Field Museum Paleontologist. Argentina and Bolivia, 1926 - 27. Original Letters and Photos by Robert C. Thorne. Privately Published. 1995
Dinosaurios en la Patagonia. By Rodolfo A. Coria. Rumbo Sur, Editorial Sudamericana.
Undated Circa 2003.
Hunting Extinct Animals in the Patagonian Pampas. By Frederic Brewster Loomis.
Dodd, Mead and Company. 1913
Dinosaur Impressions. Postcards from a Paleontologist. By Philippe Taquet. Translated by Kevin Padian. Cambridge University Press. 1998.