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Edward Drinker Cope


Edward Drinker Cope (July 28, 1840–April 12, 1897) was an American paleontologist and comparative anatomist, as well as a noted herpetologist and ichthyologist.

Cope was born in Philadelphia to Quaker parents. At an early age he became interested in natural history, and in 1859 communicated a paper on the Salamandridae to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia. It was about this time that he became affiliated with the Megatherium Club at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He was educated partly in the University of Pennsylvania and, after further study and travel in Europe, was appointed curator to the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1865, a post which he held until 1873. From 1864–1867 he was professor of natural science at Haverford College, and in 1889 he was appointed professor of geology and paleontology by the University of Pennsylvania.

His speciality was the study of the American fossil vertebrata. From 1871–1877 he carried on explorations of the Cretaceous strata of Kansas, and the Tertiary in Wyoming and Colorado. He made known at least 1,000 new species in his lifetime, as well as many genera of extinct vertebrata. Among these were some of the oldest known mammals, obtained in New Mexico, and 56 species of dinosaur, including Camarasaurus, Amphicoelias, and Coelophysis. He was an incredibly prolific publisher, producing more than 1,200 scientific papers in his lifetime. He served on the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico (1874), Montana (1875), and in Oregon and Texas (1877). He was also one of the editors of the American Naturalist. He died in Philadelphia.

Cope's competition with Othniel Charles Marsh for the discovery of new fossils became known as the Bone Wars.

Cope requested in his will that his remains be used as the holotype of Homo sapiens. Some efforts were made in this direction, but the skeleton was found unsuitable to be a type specimen due to disease. Later, W.T. Stearn (1959) designated Linnaeus himself as the lectotype of H. sapiens. Maverick paleontologist Robert Bakker declared his intention to describe Cope's skull as a type specimen, but never published this (a 1994 book by Louis Psihoyos attributed a supposed citation to Bakker in "The Journal of the Wyoming Geological Society", but this does not exist). Such a publication, even if it did exist, would have been invalidated by Stearn's prior designation, but - to make matters more confusing - the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (which did not exist until 1961) also invalidates Stearn's designation, and makes it altogether impossible for a neotype to be validly designated for H. sapiens (ICZN Article 75.3).


Popular culture

In Search for Dinosaurs, the second book in the Time Machine series, the reader meets Edward Drinker Cope whilst he is on an expedition in Colorado and asks him where archaeopteryx bones might be found. Cope replies[1]:

    • "Not around here. Each dinosaur had only a limited territory. In the same way you only find lions in Africa and kangaroos in Australia, the only place archaeopteryx fossils have been found is in Europe. You're on the wrong continent, my friend."


  1. ^ Bischoff, David; Search for Dinosaurs (Time Machine, No. 2); published 1984 by Bantam Books; pp. 66-68

Stearn, William T. (1959). The Background of Linnaeus's Contributions to the Nomenclature and Methods of Systematic Biology. Systematic Zoology 8:4–22.

See also

Species named for him

The salamander, Dicamptodon copei Nussbaum, 1970; the toad, Bufo americanus copei H. C. Yarrow and Henshaw, 1878; the lizard Gambelia wislizenii copeii (H. C. Yarrow, 1882) and the snake Cemophora coccinea copei Jan, 1863 were named for Cope by various other naturalists. [1]

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Edward_Drinker_Cope". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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