6 SCIENCE RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW
IN 1787, SOMEONE in New Jersey—exactly who now seems to be forgotten—found an enormous thighbone sticking out of a stream bank at a place called Woodbury Creek. The bone clearly didn't belong to any species of creature still alive, certainly not in New Jersey. From what little is known now, it is thought to have belonged to a hadrosaur, a large duck-billed dinosaur. At the time, dinosaurs were unknown.
The bone was sent to Dr. Caspar Wistar, the nation's leading anatomist, who described it at a meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia that autumn. Unfortunately, Wistar failed completely to recognize the bone's significance and merely made a few cautious and uninspired remarks to the effect that it was indeed a whopper. He thus missed the chance, half a century ahead of anyone else, to be the discoverer of dinosaurs. Indeed, the bone excited so little interest that it was put in a storeroom and eventually disappeared altogether. So the first dinosaur bone ever found was also the first to be lost.