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Captain Theophilus H. Turner and the Unlikely Discovery of Elasmosaurus Platyurus
- Everhart, Michael J.
- Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 2017 v.120 no.3–4 pp. 233-246
- fossils, men, railroads, wilderness, Kansas
- Theophilus Hunt Turner (1841–1869) was the military surgeon assigned to Fort Wallace in far western Kansas during the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division. The circumstances surrounding his 1867 discovery of the type specimen of Elasmosaurus platyurus were not recorded in Cope's (1868a) original reports, and were unknown until the 1987 publication of Turner's personal letters. As described originally by Turner, the story involved the unlikely association of four men and a series of events that resulted in the collection of the largest fossil specimen of the time from the wilderness of western Kansas. Here I provide additional details regarding Turner's posting at Fort Wallace and a review of the historical accounts surrounding this exceptional discovery.