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American Experience: Dinosaur Wars

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Dinosaur Wars, from producer Mark Davis, is the story of two talented scientists, O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope, whose once professional rivalry soured into a bitter personal feud. Together, Marsh and Cope were responsible for identifying more than 142 different species and for introducing dinosaurs into the American imagination, but their legacy would be forever marred by two decades of ruthless infighting, espionage, and sabotage.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: .
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    G
    General Audience
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: February 8, 2011
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004AR4W8K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,965 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Very surprised that no one has done a write up about this nice little film.

Must admit that what first drew me to this January, 2011 PBS offering - b4 I saw the trailer, that is - was the word "dinosaur" in the title. However, those not particularly interested in prehistoric animals, the history of American science, or history in general will still find this hour-long film quite fascinating because it is, more than anything, a tale about human ambition, meglomania, hatred, and single-mindedness and the extents to which they can drive someone (indeed, this doc ended up being more akin toanother excellent American Experience program, THE DUEL [about the political and personal rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr], than to dinosaur-themed prograams on the Discovery and History channelsor National Geographic).

This film concerns the late 19th century competition btween the first two great American paleontologists, former friends Othniel C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, to be the first to unearth countless hitherto unknown species of dinosaurs resting in the foothills of the arid American West AND to be the first to publish (and get the credit). The rivalry between the first American professor of paleontology (Marsh) and the self-taught "gentleman-naturalist" (Cope) was so intense that each man would publish very short articles as soon as they had anything new to report about a new find - often making great errors in their haste - and, since they did not read each other's published articles (so great was their hatred for one another), each often ended up each submitting several differebt names for the very same species of dinosaur! Of course, Marsh's and Cope's efforts to outdo one another paled in comparison to their attempts to undermine the other.
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"Dinosaur Wars" is a nicely done PBS Special focusing on the rivalry between Victorian-era paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh of Yale and Edward Drinker Cope of Philadelphia. As pioneers in the field of digging for dinosaurs, their fierce competition ended in both triumph and tragedy. The hour-long production includes on-location footage, historic documents, old photos, and a suitably knowledgeable smattering of modern paleontologists and scholars.

This is not a movie for little kids, but can be a useful teaching tool for college and university students. I plan to show this to my HIS 112 students when we talk about Western Expansion and the Gilded Age. It is sure to be a hit.

The appropriate companion book is Url Lanham's "Bone Hunters" which goes into greater detail about the early paleontological community than does the film.

Kim Burdick
Stanton, Delaware
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It's the sad but true story over two men obsessed with being the greatest dinosaur hunter in the US.
If this were about gold or diamonds, it might be understandable - yet, it's about fossils.
Well worth watching.
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I had long known about Cope and Marsh, but only bits and pieces of the story of their differences, then competition, then feud. This documentary includes lots of photographs, footage of places Cope and Marsh worked, and commentary from some of today's leading dinosaur paleontologists. I found it absolutely fascinating.

Most people view scientists as being completely objective members of a cooperative community of scholars. The truth, however, is that in some cases scientists jealously guard their ideas, methods, sources of information, data, and conclusions. Such was the case with Cope and Marsh. Their feud, however, went well beyond that. They eventually reached the stage where they were trying to ruin each other not only scientifically, but personally. And in the end, well, you'll have to watch to see how their fighting turned out.

The really sad thing to me is that Cope and Marsh could have joined forces and produced an incredibly powerful contribution to the field of paleontology in the USA. Though they did both lay their own parts of the foundation of modern American paleontology, a synergy between them would have been incredible.

I was spellbound throughout most of this documentary, and I recommend it highly.

5 stars.
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