200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 101: “Hope You're Satisfied! ”

« Gesner's Historiae Animalium

Meet Your Sister »

portraits of Dixon, Cope and Fowler
Samuel G. Dixon (left, ca. 1900), Edward Drinker Cope (center, ca 1895), and Henry Weed Fowler (dated 1949). Ewell Sale Stewart Library & Archives Coll. no. 457.

Hope You're Satisfied!

He is best known as a paleontologist and as a participant in the Bone Wars, but Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897) also is a major figure in both herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) and ichthyology (fishes). He named hundreds of new species, and his classification systems were extremely influential to the scientists who followed him. In addition, his specimens comprise a major part of the Academy’s research collections. Cope was regarded by many of his Academy colleagues as highly intelligent, abrasive, and arrogant. Their relationships with him ranged from very cordial to downright antagonistic. Rarely were they somewhere in between.

Samuel G. Dixon, the executive officer of the Board of Curators during the closing decade of the 19th century, had a particularly challenging relationship with Cope. Cope visited the Academy’s Herpetology Collection—apparently on a Sunday. He dissected the male intromittent organs from several snake specimens and took them back to his Pine Street home. In response, Dixon directed young Ichthyologist Henry Weed Fowler (1878–1965), who was known to be on excellent terms with Cope, to deliver a letter in person requesting the return of the missing items. Fowler enjoyed a long and memorable career at the Academy, but one of his favorite recollections was that delightful afternoon he spent at Cope’s house. Upon arrival, he dutifully handed over Dixon’s letter, which Cope accepted without comment. This exchange was followed by hours of pleasant conversation and an unforgettable exploration of rooms filled with amazing specimens and other treasures.

Cope returned to the Academy some time later. He laid out several sheets of wrapping paper on Dixon’s unoccupied desk and on them placed—soaking in alcohol—the missing organs accompanied by a big scrawl which read: “Hope you’re satisfied.”

Read more about Cope’s antics.

Plan your visit, check out our new exhibits, and find out about upcoming activities.
Discover the past and explore the future of the natural sciences in our online exhibits.
Make a difference, browse our programs, and get involved with the natural world.