Accepting the natural world is breakable took us centuries. Accepting we ourselves could break it took even longer. Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, was rather obsessed with mammoths. Teeth and bones from the mammoth, or ‘incognitum’ as it was often known, had turned up several times in the North American fossil record. (In fact these animals were mastodons, not mammoths, but at the time both were believed to be the same species). Jefferson seized on thei...
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