American Dinosaur Abroad

A Cultural History of Carnegie's Plaster Diplodocus

The book is a story of science and history, but it's also a close reading of how fossils and their replicas become tools of capitalism, power, and privilege. And it's a story that Nieuwland tells particularly well. . . . American Dinosaur Abroad offers a well-researched example of how paleontological patronage ensured the scientific, social, and commercial success of a dinosaur. It's also a fascinating window into the idiosyncratic hubris of one of America's most consequential barons.
Pacific Standard

In early July 1899, an excavation team of paleontologists sponsored by Andrew Carnegie discovered the fossil remains in Wyoming of what was then the longest and largest dinosaur on record. Named after its benefactor, the Diplodocus carnegii—or Dippy, as it’s known today—was shipped to Pittsburgh and later mounted and unveiled at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1907. Carnegie’s pursuit of dinosaurs in the American West and the ensuing dinomania of the late nineteenth century coincided with his broader political ambitions to establish a lasting world peace and avoid further international conflict. An ardent philanthropist and patriot, Carnegie gifted his first plaster cast of Dippy to the British Museum at the behest of King Edward VII in 1902, an impulsive diplomatic gesture that would result in the donation of at least seven reproductions to museums across Europe and Latin America over the next decade, in England, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Russia, Argentina, and Spain. In this largely untold history, Ilja Nieuwland explores the influence of Andrew Carnegie’s prized skeleton on European culture through the dissemination, reception, and agency of his plaster casts, revealing much about the social, political, cultural, and scientific context of the early twentieth century.

336 Pages, 6 x 9 in.

April, 2019

isbn : 9780822945574

about the author

Ilja Nieuwland

Ilja Nieuwland is a historian of science–in particular paleontology–attached to the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam.

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Ilja Nieuwland