For his tenth book, Conniff was asked by Yale University Press to tell the story of the Peabody Museum of Natural History in honor of its 150th anniversary.

Naturally, such a corporate undertaking was met with a degree of journalistic skepticism: “I was a little hesitant at first because I didn’t think I could find a great story or a great narrative arc in one museum.” But then the prize-winning science writer starting digging into the backstory of the New Haven, Connecticut, establishment and what tumbled forth included scandals, adventure, ferocious feuds and some of the wildest, or deranged, derring-do of the scientific world.

On the occasion of the publication of Conniff’s new book House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties and the Story of Life on Earth, we sat down to discuss the Peabody Museum—the wellspring of some the most distinguished scholarship of our times.

What was the spark that really got you going on this entire project?

I began with John Ostrom and his discovery of the active, agile, fast dinosaurs in the 1960s and the beginning of the dinosaur revolution. His life sort of runs right up through the discovery that modern birds are just

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