(Address as Retiring President of the Paleontological Society)
In a quarry high on the side of a mountain, far from the shore of any ocean, a workman sets his wedges in a mass of hard limestone; as the rock splits apart there is revealed the clean-cut imprint of a sea shell. At the foot of a high river bluff the eroding currents uncover the deeply buried bones of an animal, a beast unknown among living creatures of that vicinity. In the shale overlying a seam of coal a miner finds the beautifully preserved imprints of fern leaves and the stumps and trunks of strange extinct trees. Astonishing discoveries these, it seems; but really commonplace to those who specialize in the study of such things. The things discovered are the fossil remains of animals and plants that lived in past geologic periods.
Fossils, sports or freaks of nature they were sometimes . . .