Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Died This Day: Edward Drinker Cope

(July28, 1840 - April 12, 1987)

From the excellent evolution pages at the University of California at Berkeley web site:

Edward Drinker Cope was an American paleontologist and evolutionist. He was one of the founders of the Neo- Lamarckian school of evolutionary thought. This school believed that changes in developmental (embryonic) timing, not natural selection, was the driving force of evolution. In 1867, Cope suggested that most changes in species occurred by coordinated additions to the ontogeny of all the individuals in a species. Speciation proceeded by the addition of stages to the end of embryonic sequences of development and by compression of earlier stages into the earlier parts of the developmental sequence. That is, a new developmental stage would be tacked onto the end of the developmental process, pushing the old end stage further back in development. Cope thought that groups of species that shared similar developmental patterns could be grouped into more inclusive groups (i.e. genera, families, and so on).

Cope led many natural history surveys in the American West for the precursors of the U.S. Geological Survey. He made many important finds on his trips, including dinosaur discoveries in western North America. Although he is best remembered today for his prolific description of new dinosaur species, and for his notorious ‘fossil war’ with rival O. C. Marsh, Cope was primarily a herpetologist and mammalogist who described many genera and species that are still used today.