At age 15, William Cheselden apprenticed himself to a noted London surgeon. Seven years later, in 1709, he emerged as a surgeon himself. Unable to immediately develop a practice, he taught anatomy and eventually turned his class notes into a book, The Anatomy of the Humane Body. It was wildly successful, partially because it Read more
Little did itinerant merchant Joseph Sherburne and Ponca Chief White Eagle know, but their trading in corncob pipes would ignite a fashion frenzy lasting 30 years. Sherburne had obtained a license to trade with this group of Native Americans, who in 1878 were living in Indian Territory, which is now Eastern Oklahoma. Among his trade goods were pipes fitted with bone stems. They quickly sold but without comment from the purchasers. When Sherburne next visited, Chief White Eagle showed him an elaborate neck ornament Read more
The emergency room staff was immediately suspicious. His father said that Peter, just over six months old, was pulling himself up to a standing position by grasping his pant leg. Peter fell back, screaming. The extreme distress, entirely unusual for Peter, continued until some Tylenol helped him fall asleep. The next morning Peter was again screaming, and his mother took him to the emergency room. Read more
If table talk at Thanksgiving dinner grinds to a halt following dissections of weather, football, and rogue relatives, you may wish to bring up the seasonally relevant topic of wishbones. Here are 12 ways to ensure that you will be invited back for Thanksgiving next year. Read more
An elephant herd consists of a matriarch, her sisters, one happy male, and all of their i.mmature offspring. Once juvenile male elephants reach adulthood at approximately 14 years of age, they are expelled from the group and either live alone or pal around from time to time with other bachelors.
As is known for at least one other contemporary species, young male elephants lack life skills and good judgment, and so they may exhibit risky behaviors, including lethal ones, such as getting mired in bogs. Read more
Catherine the Great. Richard the Lion-Hearted. Ivan the Terrible. By their names alone, these leaders commanded respect, perhaps fear. How would you feel about marching into battle behind a war lord named Ivar the Boneless? I would always be thinking of Gary Larsen’s cartoon, The Boneless Chicken Ranch–chickens are lying fried-egg-flat on the ground or draped limply over the fence like Salvador Dali watches. Read more
If somebody asks you how many bones there are in a human body, please do not blurt out, “206.” The correct answer is nuanced. To respond accurately to the query, you have to address five questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? Read more
Paleontology, the study of fossilized life forms, has had some quirky disciples, none more so than Othneil Marsh and Edward Cope. Both paleontologic giants, they were also egomaniacal, ambitious, jealous, and rich. Author Url Lanham describes them this way:
At a level above the ordinary garden variety of malicious gossip is genuine hate, which probably is one of the most valuable forces in existence for producing, quick, accurate, incisive, and original thinking. Both Cope and Marsh enjoyed the benefits of this emotion to an unusually high degree. Read more
The easiest way to learn what owls have for dinner is to figure out where they roost. Old barns and churches are particularly good places to look. On the ground below the nest you are likely to find a scattering
What about those hard things that protrude through the scalp on moose and reindeer, through the feet on hoofed animals, and through the gums on most vertebrates? Are they bone? In the instance of teeth, no. Although teeth and bone are both hard and calcium-rich, they have entirely different chemistries and structures. Same for tusks, which are continuously growing front teeth. They are ivory.
What about hooves, claws, beaks, and maybe your mother-in-law’s fingernails?