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The humane Jefferson also wanted Lewis to distribute "kine-pox" cowpox vaccine among the Indians to ward off the smallpox that already was decimating the tribes of the Upper Missouri. The expedition expended most of its efforts in forcing its way through the wilderness and in gathering enough food to stay alive, but Lewis, an amateur botanist, did an impressive amount of work as a scientist. His lengthy notes on natural history are a priceless record of the red man's West. Two months out of the Mandan villages, on their way west, Lewis and Clark had gone through what came to be one of the classic fossil-hunting grounds.

About a hundred miles below the great Falls of the Missouri, they came upon a beautifully clear stream, flowing from the south through rugged badlands to empty into the Missouri. Clark named it the Judith River after a thirteen-year-old friend Julia called Judy , whom he later married. In the Judith River badlands pieces of dinosaur bone can be found in abundance, but they lie in the topmost layers of the gigantic bluffs, which rise feet above the river, and Lewis passed by them unaware.

Jefferson did not get a successful bone-hunting expedition underway until the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition, when he asked Clark, now a general, to dig at the Big Bone Lick in Kentucky. Clark collected more than bones, most of them of the elephantlike mastodon, and sent them to Washington by way of New Orleans. Jefferson, who believed that education was the most important aspect of the life of the nation, and dreamed of an entire populace of educated farmers like himself, made one of the rooms of the White House into a museum, where he spread out the fossil bones to show to visitors.

In the yard of the presidential mansion he kept a pair of grizzly cubs brought back by the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Bone Hunters

Like many another scientist and rationalist, Jefferson was an object of abuse from the conservatives of his time as a "French infidel" and "atheist. Go, wretch, resign thy presidential chair, Disclose thy secret measures, foul or fair, Go, search with curious eyes for horned frogs, 'Mid the wild wastes of Louisianian bogs; Or where the Ohio rolls his turbid stream; Dig for huge bones, thy glory and thy theme.

Scholars read the six asterisks as "Sally's," in reference to the contemporary gossip about Jefferson's "black Aspasia. During the nineteenth century, the Enlightenment's "smile of reason" faded from the high councils of state. Jefferson's friend Tom Paine fell upon evil days, and died abused and neglected.

Ermine Cowles Case

His bones were dug up and taken to England for a traveling show, where the populace could shudder pleasurably at the relics of the notorious atheist. A mastodon also was exported to England, exhibited as the "Leviathan of Holy Writ. What a field we have at our doors to signalize ourselves in. The botany of America is far from being exhausted, its mineralogy is untouched, and its natural history of zoology totally mistaken or misrepresented It is for such institutions as that over which you preside so worthily, sir, to do justice to our country, its productions and its genius.

It is the work to which the young men you are forming should lay their hands. We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in showing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue, and that a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free. Although observations and theories that would make possible a science of the history of the earth had been accumulating since the reawakening of interest in nature that took place with the Renaissance, these observations were not brought together in a systematic way until the beginning of the nineteenth century.


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This organization was carried out almost single-handedly by the Englishman Charles Lyell, who created geology as a large-scale and going concern with his three-volume Principles of Geology which began to appear in and which he constantly revised for the next forty-two years, keeping pace with and in many ways leading the rapid growth of the new science. Emphasis on what could be seen before one's eyes provided a base for the healthy growth of geology.

One of the first results of the science was the realization that the earth must be very old. It could be observed that the landscape was constantly being shaped by the slow forces of erosion. Instead of being permanent structures, the very hills had a history of change that extended over eons of time. Study of the silts and sands carried from the hillsides by streams out into broad valleys and onto deltas showed that hard rocks such as sandstones and shales were obviously ancient sediments of this kind.

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Analysis of the patchwork of sedimentary rocks scattered over the earth showed that they could be arranged in a vertical sequence, the older at the bottom, that totaled mile upon mile in thickness. Subjects Cope, E. Edward Drinker , Marsh, Othniel Charles, Fossils -- Collection and preservation -- West U. Paleontologists -- United States -- Biography.

The Bone Hunters: The Heroic Age of Paleontology in the American West by Url Lanham | LibraryThing

Fossils -- West U. Reprinted with corrections. Includes bibliographical references p. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? La Trobe University Library.

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