Some of history’s most respected artists, politicians and scientists weren’t above engaging in schoolyard squabbles and public feuds with their contemporaries. Many actively tried to undermine one another’s careers, while others resorted to threats and even serious acts of violence. From warring paleontologists to a pair of dueling founding fathers, explore six of history’s fiercest rivalries.
In the 19th century, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh turned the hunt for new dinosaur species into a cutthroat game of one-upmanship. The two scientists started out on friendly terms—each had once named new fossils after the other—but they had a falling out in the late 1860s, after Marsh bribed workers into helping him acquire bones from one of Cope’s dig sites. Over the next two decades, the pair engaged in a heated and often malicious race to out-excavate and out-discover each other. They hired spies to keep tabs on each other’s movements (Marsh referred to his rival by the codename “Jones”), hired away each other’s employees, and even ordered their workers to destroy dig sites and smash fossils so the other couldn’t claim them. The “Bone Wars” would eventually ruin both men professionally and financially, but it left paleontology all the richer—by the 1890s, Cope and Marsh’s competition had led to the discovery of thousands of fossils and 136 new dinosaur species including the Triceratops, the Stegosaurus and the Apatosaurus.