Othniel attended Phillips Andover academy, 1852-56, was graduated at Yale, A.B., 1860, A.M., 1864, and continued his studies at the Yale scientific school, 1860-62, where he made an important discovery in palæontology, describing the fosaurus acadianus, a large reptile from the coal formation of Nova Scotia. He studied in the Universities of Heidelberg, Breslau and Berlin, 1862-65, and was the first professor of palæontology at Yale, 1866-99. He devoted himself to the special investigation of the extinct vertebrate animals of the Rocky Mountain district, and nearly every year from 1868 organized and led scientific expeditions into this region. He became U.S. palæontologist in 1882, and from that year conducted these expeditions under the auspices of the U.S. government. In these explorations more than 1000 new species of vertebrates were discovered, 300 of which were described by Mr. Marsh in the American Journal of Science. Between 1890-99 he devoted himself to the geology of the region between the Appalachian mountain system and the Atlantic ocean.
In 1875 he discovered and exposed the frauds practised by government agents on the Indians and his action resulted in the resignation of the secretary of the interior.
Among the extinct vertebrates discovered by him are the odontornithes, cretaceous birds having teeth; the dinocerate, six-horned animals of the eocene period, and elephantine in bulk; the earliest ancestors of the horse, eohippus, orohippus and epihippus; the first known American pterodactyls or flying lizards; the brontotheriidæ, a new family of ungulates from the miocene period; the first mammals of the jurassic period found in America, together with new families of dinosauria and some enormous reptiles, and a large variety of American monkeys, bats and marsupials. Probably his most conspicuous scientific achievements are his tracing of the phylogeny of the horse, and his system of cephalization.
Professor Marsh was the nephew and heir of George Peabody and he was enabled to prosecute his scientific researches at Yale and for the government without an appropriation. It was at his suggestion that his uncle founded the Peabody museum at Yale.
He was a fellow of the Geological society of London, foreign member from 1898, and received the Bigsby medal from there in 1877; a fellow of the Royal Geographical society; a member of the German Geological society, the Royal Irish academy, the Royal Bavarian Academy of Science, and the Royal academy of Denmark and Belgium. He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1878, of the National Academy of Sciences, 1883-95, and was awarded the Cuvier prize from the French Royal Academy of Science in 1897. He received the honorary degrees Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg and LL.D. from Harvard in 1886. He was curator of the geological collection, Museum of Natural History, Yale, 1867-99, and in 1898 presented to Yale his six collections, the result of thirty years' labor, which are deposited in the Peabody museum. At his death, being unmarried, he gave his estate in New Haven to Yale university to used as a botanical garden. He is the author of a series of monographs published under the auspices of the U.S. government, entitled Odontornithes, or Birds with Teeth (1880); Dinocerata (1884), and Dinosaurs of North America (1895).
He died in New Haven, Conn., March 18, 1899."
NOTE: I don't know the lineage of Othneil. If he was from one of the first three children of John Marsh, he is not a descendant of Susanna Skelton, as another, unknown, woman is believed to be John's first wife. The above sketch was written while genealogists believed Susanna to be the mother of all of his children (see the 1635 marriage date above, which is now believed to be 1642-1645), so it may mistate his ancestry, depending on which child of John's he is from.
Copyright 1998 Norris Taylor