Guest Host: Todd Zwillich

A sculpture of Charles Darwin sits in front of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History’s newly reopened “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time.” More than 700 fossil specimens, including mammals, reptiles, plants and insects are on display in the hall, made possible by a $35 million gift from billionaire David Koch.

A sculpture of Charles Darwin sits in front of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History’s newly reopened “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time.” More than 700 fossil specimens, including mammals, reptiles, plants and insects are on display in the hall, made possible by a $35 million gift from billionaire David Koch.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History opened a new dinosaur and fossil exhibit this summer.

But some have criticized the funding behind the new exhibit. They fault the institution for accepting $35 million in funding from David H. Koch, a petrochemical magnate who opposed climate-change legislation and provided funding to organizations that deny climate science.

Dozens of researchers have signed a petition urging museums to cut ties with Koch and his brother Charles. But the museum says that donors have no control over the content of the exhibit, and that the new hall sends a powerful message on climate change.

David H. Koch is hardly the first industrialist to spend major money on dinosaurs. There’s a long history of American business tycoons, like Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, funding major dinosaur collections, according to Lukas Rieppel, a professor of history at Brown University.

We talk to Rieppel about his research documenting how wealthy industrialists of the Gilded Age sought to cement their own reputations as generous benefactors of science.

Produced by Danielle Knight.

Guests

  • Lukas Rieppel History professor, Brown University; author: "Assembling the Dinosaur: Fossil Hunters, Tycoons, and The Making of A Spectacle,"; @lrieppel

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