Mikayla S.

First Place Winner

Of all the books I've read, of all the artists, speeches, and theories I've found, "The Dinosaur Heresies" is probably the only single source which developed my understanding of the unity of art and science.

In 1986, paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker seemed finally tired of arguing about dinosaurian endothermy. He had been rebuked by the general scientific community, not through any scientific means, but by the inability of his fellow scientists to let go of tradition as Brontosaurs waddled in swamps, Triceratops' bellies dragged the ground, and Tyrannosaurus stood upright like a man. Society and even science felt safe in indulging in the sentimentality for cold-blooded lizards rolling around in the muck and mire, using them as a spring board from which to launch civilized man on top of the "chain of beings", in his proper place above all the heathenish animals and primitive tribes. The true nature the Dinosauria was lost in folklore, reality ignored in order to make the world fit a predetermined scheme.

So he wrote a book. In excess of six hundred pages, Bakker's "The Dinosaur Heresies" essentially listed and descriptively explained through example after example the support for his new, heretical dinosaur: endothermic (warm-blooded), fast, intelligent, and not at all an evolutionary dead-end, but one of the earth's greatest groups of animals. He illustrated his own book with straight-legged, galloping Triceratops, heterodontosaurs maneuvering from a predator like today's tompson's gazelles evade cheetahs, and dromaeosaurs like Deinonychus (Jurassic Park's real raptor) as complex and highly social. His infallible collection of hard evidence, derived from one of the most thorough understandings of the interconnectedness of life I've ever encountered, was one of the largest sparks of the "dinosaur revolution", a massive reworking of our understanding of dinosaurs. During my freshman year, I sat down with "The Dinosaur Heresies" and read it cover to cover and couldn't bear to put it down. As an already avid lover of paleontology, this book was not only fascinating for its scientific purpose, but its almost heroically revolutionary social implications.

At the end of my AP literature class, my rigorous high school will have saturated me with over forty ethnographies, classics, and contemporary literary works, all of which I loved for their influence in developing my understanding of my world. I think my interest in both pure literature and scientific works such as "The Dinosaur Heresies" stem from a deep desire to understand and reconstruct the past, honestly, impartially, and respectfully, whether another person half a world or three centuries away, or a homely archeosaur. My secondary, but likely just as intense, interest in art is also key in my understanding of my world. Of all the books I've read, of all the artists, speeches, and theories I've found, "The Dinosaur Heresies" is probably the only single source which developed my understanding of the unity of art and science. The unequivocal confidence I gained from his bold presentation of powerful science and wonderful imagery aided in cementing my passions: I am now moving on to several degrees in evolutionary biology and biological illustration, starting at Montana State University, thanks, at least in part, to this impelling book.