The Kansan Who Made "Dinosaur" a Household Word

Jan 25, 2016

Credit Bettman / Corbis

Dinosaurs have become an everyday part of the American imagination. From Jurassic World to The Good Dinosaur, we encounter these ancient behemoths perhaps more than we even realize. But how did this obsession come about? It happened largely thanks to the efforts of one man: Barnum Brown. Brown was born in frontier Kansas in 1873. Named after the great showman P.T. Barnum, Brown would grow up to become a master promoter in his own right.

An intrepid mixture of Indiana Jones and Stephen Hawking, Brown was “the most successful field paleontologist in history,” according to his biographers. The Daily Beast notes that Brown lived life “like a movie script . . . surviv[ing] shipwrecks in Patagonia, spy adventures in Turkey, malaria in Burma, and the wrath of jilted lovers worldwide.”

He also discovered the dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex, in Hell Creek, Montana, in 1902. Its skull alone weighed 4,000 pounds.