Dr. Paul Brinkman will share a brief history of the ongoing conflict between academics and commercial fossil collectors, professional and amateur paleontologists. The laws regarding who can excavate, export and study fossils vary widely and there are ethical dilemmas within the field. The history of Sue the T. rex, located at the Field Museum in Chicago, is one example. Three parties embarked on a five-year custody battle that ended in a public auction in 1997. The Field Museum was the highest bidder, with an $8.4 million bid, and bought it with the help of sponsors like McDonald’s and Disney. This story ends with the specimen being available for scientific research and on display for the public to access but not all paleontological specimens end up this way.
About the Presenter
Dr. Paul Brinkman is a historian of science specializing in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century natural sciences, especially geology and vertebrate paleontology. He is also interested in the history of museums; the spread of science from Europe to the New World; the trans-Atlantic exchanges of specimens and ideas; and the life and work of Charles Darwin, his contemporaries, and their contributions to geology, paleontology and biogeography. Of particular interest is the question of what Darwin did during the voyage of HMS Beagle and how this influenced his thinking about the mutability of species.
Dr. Brinkman’s approach to the history of science is largely sociological: science was what scientists did. He writes narrative accounts of scientific events that reconstruct scientific practice – what scientists did, how they did it, and how this affected their results. He tries to practice what he calls “hands-on” history as much as possible. Likewise, he aspires to write the kind of micro-historical narrative that places the reader in the boots of the naturalist with a pick or a plant press in hand.