Thursday, July 21, 2011

Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?

Ulysses S. Grant IV (1893-1977)
This year marks the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  I've always been fascinated by it and, particularly, by the personalities of the folks who shaped it.    

I was reading about General of the Army (and, later, President) Ulysses S. Grant the other day when I came across the fact that his grandson, Ulysses S. Grant IV (pictured to the left in 1918), was a paleontologist who specialized in molluscs.

This brought to mind two things:  (i) Elizabeth Law's pronouncement at the Austin SCBWI conference last February to the effect that "molluscs were the next big thing" in YA literature and that she was awaiting "bivalve love" manuscripts; and (ii) more seriously, my favorite extinct molluscs, the ammonites:
Ammonite, HMNS
Ammonite artist's conception, courtesy Wikipedia
Cephalopods, and therefore related to the octopus and squid, ammonites of the Late Cretaceous variety grew to as much as six feet in diameter.  They hung around the middle of the Western Interior Seaway and were preyed upon by mosasaurs.      
At one point, Grant was curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and also taught paleontology at UCLA.  Alas, rather than ammonites (which went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous), Grant appears to have specialized in California molluscs of the Cenozoic.  He also apparently appeared on "You Bet Your Life," the show where Groucho Marx always used to ask the question in the title to this post. 

I kind of wonder how much grief he got -- both as a kid and later as a professional -- because of his name...     


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