200 Years. 200 Stories. Story
63: “Getting to Know Cope
Edward Drinker Cope in 1876. Library & Archives coll. 457.
Getting to Know Cope
Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897), a curator at the Academy in the decades following the American Civil War, is one of the best known names in American paleontology. In 1868 Cope described the giant marine reptile Elasmosaurus platyurus, a cast of which soars overhead in our lobby. The fossil helped to spark a heated rivalry between Cope and Yale University’s Othniel Charles Marsh. The competition between these two brilliant scientists, dubbed the Bone Wars by later historians, marked an extraordinarily productive period in American paleontology. Together, these two men discovered and described more than 140 new species of fossil animals.
Many of Cope’s discoveries are kept in our collections. Pieces of Cope himself reside in other Philadelphia institutions—his brain is preserved in alcohol at the Wistar Institute, and his skull is at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Want to know more about Cope and the Bone Wars? Stay tuned to 200 Years. 200 Stories.