House of Lost Worlds a “Masterful and Engaging” book
Posted by Richard Conniff on May 5, 2016
Great article by Bruce Fellman about visiting the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and, o.k., also about my “masterful and engaging” book about the Peabody, “House of Lost Worlds”:
Almost 150 years ago—October 22, 1866, to be exact—the fabulously wealthy Massachusetts-born financier and philanthropist George Peabody announced that, because he’d become convinced “of the importance of the natural sciences,” he was committed to giving Yale University $150,000 for “the foundation and maintenance of a MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY.” No doubt his favorite nephew, the up-and-coming vertebrate paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, had more than a little to do with fostering his uncle’s munificence—Peabody, after all, had already bankrolled O.C.’s Yale education and start as a scientist—and no sooner had the gift been announced than Marsh began spearheading an effort to assemble a collection that would “be as extensive,” he said, as those in Berlin and any of the science capitals of the world. A building to house the stuff would come later.
Uncle George, who died in 1869, never got to see the museum that his generosity, “wholely without parallel,” according to Queen Victoria, would eventually make possible, but last week
, on a rainy, chilly Thursday, the Naturalist, his wife Pam, and his granddaughter Stasia, made the trip west to New Haven to introduce our six-year-old mini-naturalist to a place “of life and enjoyment and gaiety and fun,” according to an especially apt description coined by the Peabody’s one-time director, S. Dillon Ripley, in 1984.
In House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth (Yale University Press, 2016), veteran science writer Richard Conniff offers …