History of Extinction

History of Extinction

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the Great Chain of Being, which every creature on earth was part of, in perpetuity. Extinction was considered to be impossible, and this belief influenced western science up to the nineteenth century. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Barrow: T233 1:15 Thomas Jefferson was an avid collector of fossils, and gathered them together in Monticello and studied them, but did not believe that extinction could take place. He thought those creatures must exist somewhere.

Mark Barrow is a professor of history at Virginia Tech.

2:03 He gave instructions to Lewis and Clark and others as they were going out on these western exploring expeditions, to keep an eye out for these large elephant-like creatures that he thought must exist. “I’ve got the bones of them. The bones exist, therefore the creatures must exist because extinction cannot take place.” And of course they don’t see them. They find more fossils, but they don’t find any of these creatures.

Barrow: 234 :30 A french naturalist George Couvier in the early nineteenth century makes this really brilliant breakthrough and really challenges this notion that extinction can’t take place. He takes some of the specimens that Thomas Jefferson had collected and others had collected, and begins comparing them and creating this field of comparative anatomy and comparative paleontology, and begins delineating separate species. He says, OK, the mastodon, that’s a separate species, and the wooly mammoth, that’s a separate species. Those are similar to, but different from, the African elephant and Asian elephant. So we’ve got now four or five different elephant like species that are all different creatures, and yet, because they’re such large creatures, If they still existed, somebody would have seen them, by the early nineteenth century. So they’re different species; no one continues to see them; so there must be extinction.

I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

History of Extinction

Part of Lewis and Clark's mission was to find dinosaurs!
Air Date:08/07/2017
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History of Extinction

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the Great Chain of Being, which every creature on earth was part of, in perpetuity. Extinction was considered to be impossible, and this belief influenced western science up to the nineteenth century. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Barrow: T233 1:15 Thomas Jefferson was an avid collector of fossils, and gathered them together in Monticello and studied them, but did not believe that extinction could take place. He thought those creatures must exist somewhere.

Mark Barrow is a professor of history at Virginia Tech.

2:03 He gave instructions to Lewis and Clark and others as they were going out on these western exploring expeditions, to keep an eye out for these large elephant-like creatures that he thought must exist. "I've got the bones of them. The bones exist, therefore the creatures must exist because extinction cannot take place." And of course they don't see them. They find more fossils, but they don't find any of these creatures.

Barrow: 234 :30 A french naturalist George Couvier in the early nineteenth century makes this really brilliant breakthrough and really challenges this notion that extinction can't take place. He takes some of the specimens that Thomas Jefferson had collected and others had collected, and begins comparing them and creating this field of comparative anatomy and comparative paleontology, and begins delineating separate species. He says, OK, the mastodon, that's a separate species, and the wooly mammoth, that's a separate species. Those are similar to, but different from, the African elephant and Asian elephant. So we've got now four or five different elephant like species that are all different creatures, and yet, because they're such large creatures, If they still existed, somebody would have seen them, by the early nineteenth century. So they're different species; no one continues to see them; so there must be extinction.

I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.