Cover image for King of the dinosaur hunters : the life of John Bell Hatcher and the discoveries that shaped paleontology / Lowell Dingus.
King of the dinosaur hunters : the life of John Bell Hatcher and the discoveries that shaped paleontology / Lowell Dingus.
First Pegasus Books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pegasus Books, Ltd. : distributed by W.W. Norton, 2018.

Physical Description:
xxiv, 520 pages, [24] unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 24 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
560.92 HAT DIN Book Adult Biography

On Order



Every year millions of museum visitors marvel at the skeletons of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures discovered by John Bell Hatcher. The life of the "King of Collectors" is every bit as fascinating as the mighty bones and fossils he unearthed.Hatcher helped discover and mount much of the Carnegie Museum's world famous, 150 million-year-old skeleton of Diplodocus, a slender-necked, long-tailed, plant-eater whose skeleton has captivated our collective imaginations for more than a century. But that wasn't all Hatcher discovered. During a now legendary collecting campaign in Wyoming between 1889 and 1892, Hatcher discovered a 66 million-year-old horned dinosaur, Torosaurus, as well as the first scientifically significant set of skeletons from its evolutionary cousin, Triceratops. Refusing to restrict his talents to enormous dinosaurs, he also discovered the first significant sample of mammal teeth from our relatives that lived 66 million years ago. The teeth might have been minute, but this extraordinary discovery filled a key gap in humanity's own evolutionary history.Hatcher's discoveries form the bases of some of the most beloved and well-known collections and institutions in the world--Yale, The Peabody Museum, Princeton University, the Carnegie Museum, and more. Nearly one hundred and twenty-five years after Hatcher's monumental "hunts" ended, acclaimed paleontologist Lowell Dingus invites us to revisit Hatcher's captivating expeditions and marvel at this real-life Indiana Jones and the vital role he played in our understanding of paleontology.

Author Notes

Lowell Dingus, Ph.D., is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as well as at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He has directed numerous significant fossil exhibits and has led various paleontological expeditions around the world, including the Patagonian excavation that uncovered the first fossilized skin from an embryonic dinosaur. He has coauthored several books, including Walking on Eggs and The Mistaken Extinction. Lowell lives in New York City.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

While it's true that John Bell Hatcher (1861-1904) was one of the 19th century's most prolific fossil hunters, this deeply flawed biography by Dingus (Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex, coauthor), an American Museum of Natural History research associate, does little to reveal his subject's humanity or mystique. Although Dingus provides excruciating detail about the many fossils Hatcher collected throughout western North America and shipped back to Yale, Princeton, and the Carnegie Museum beginning in 1884, virtually no information is presented about any other collector, so the reader lacks any context to judge Hatcher's record. Much of the material presented arises from Hatcher's letters to his employers, dealing with mundane matters like salaries and reimbursements for himself and his assistants and conveying little of the excitement of scientific discovery. Remarkably few personal facts appear-it isn't until a full year after the fact that Dingus reveals Hatcher was married, and not until the penultimate chapter that he had seven children, three of whom died before the age of four. The book does give paleontology enthusiasts a sense of the challenges involved in 19th-century fossil hunting, at least in Hatcher's case, but leaves them with little insight into the man himself. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

With this fascinating work, Dingus (research associate, American Museum of Natural History; coauthor, The Mistaken Extinction) eulogizes paleontologist John Bell Hatcher (1861-1904), known as "the king of the collectors." The author's enthusiasm for his subject is apparent; as is the volume of research he conducted to write this biography. While Hatcher is the central character, readers interested in the Bone Wars-a race in the American West between paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope to collect the most fossils and describe more new species-will be rewarded with information about that saga's varied cast of characters. Complete with extensive appendixes detailing Hatcher's collections, this is a fitting addition to the oeuvre alongside Tom Rea's Bone Wars: The Excavation of Andrew Carnegie's Dinosaur. VERDICT An excellent new science -biography that will be popular with readers who already have an interest in paleontology or those who would like to develop one.-Esther Jackson, New York -Botanical Garden © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Glossary of Generap. ix
Prologuep. xxiii
Section I 1861-1884p. 1
1 Becoming Marsh's Minionp. 3
2 Marsh: The Masterp. 12
Section II 1884-1893p. 29
3 Wrestling with Rhinos, as well as Authorityp. 31
4 Messin' with Texas and Returning for Rhinosp. 41
5 Thunder Beastsp. 56
6 Tracking Triceratops and Mining Mini-Mammalsp. 85
7 Pondering Other Optionsp. 104
8 Hail the Hadrosaurs and Trumpet Torossurusp. 129
9 An Unexpected Endingp. 152
Section III 1893-1900p. 179
10 From Princeton to the Plains with an Eye on Patagoniap. 181
11 A Tango with the Tides among Patagonian Panoramasp. 211
12 Discovery followed by Disease and Disappointmentp. 239
Section IV 1900-1904p. 267
13 Carnegie's Colossusp. 269
14 Hatcher's Hiring and Shenanigans at Sheep Creekp. 290
15 Documenting Diplodocus along with a Massive Menageriep. 318
16 An Eruption of Research and Astonishing Acquisitionsp. 346
17 The Curtain Closesp. 378
18 Woe and Wrangling in the Wakep. 392
Epiloguep. 411
Appendix 1 Contracts and Agreements Between O. C. Marsh and J. B. Hatcherp. 427
Appendix 2 Year-By-Year Lists of Specimens Collected by Hatcher and His Field Crewsp. 433
Bibliography for John Bell Hatcherp. 471
References Other Than Hatcher's Publicationsp. 475
Endnotesp. 481
Acknowledgmentsp. 503
Indexp. 507