I ran across this other question about time travel and dinosaurs, and it reminded me of an old short story I read a long time ago.

I read it in a collection of short stories. It would have been a book because I borrowed it from a school library. Probably in the 1970s or 1980s.

The book and the story would have been older, though. Probably from the 1960s or earlier.

In the story, a scientist has a machine that he can use to view the past. It isn't like a TV or something, though. It opens a portal into the past that he can look through.

It is very difficult to control, though. Pointing it at a place and time is likened to working in a hurricane. The portal jumps and moves about randomly.

The steadier he can hold it, the clearer the past appears. When it is really steady, he can hear sounds from the past.

It never gets really steady enough to reach through. They try pushing tools through the portal to pick up things in the past. The steadier the portal, the easier it is to push tools through. It never gets steady enough for them to push a tool all the way through, though. It just gets easier to make progress.

One day, they have the portal open and it is acting really wild. At some point the workers take a break. The portal is still open, and while they are loafing the portal settles down by itself and becomes steadier than it has ever been. So steady that a piece of the past falls through. The portal scooped a chunk of the ground out of the past.

The chunk of ground contains a nest with dinosaur eggs.

The scientist rescues the eggs, and they manage to keep them warm enough until they hatch.

The dinosaurs are some kind of harmless things, and become the lab mascots. Always wandering the grounds, and in and out of the lab.

One day, the have the portal open again and one of the dinosaurs wanders into the lab and walks into some high voltage terminal.

Crash, bang. Short circuit. All the equipment to open the portal is destroyed, and the dinosaur is roasted from the flash.

The roasted dinosaur smells good, like chicken, and the scientist's son (who has been telling the story) takes a bite to see what it tastes like.

He says "It resembled chicken the way an asteroid resembles Jupiter."

It tastes fantastic. With all of their work ruined, and the ruins of a fortune in expensive equipment scattered around them, the scientists and the labworkers all chow down on dinosaur. Half raw, half burned to a crisp from the explosion. They eat the dinosaur down to the bones.

They start breeding the dinosaurs, and sell them as food. The guy's father makes a fortune selling dinosaur meat, but remains unhappy.

With money from selling dinosaur meat, he rebuilt his lab but never ever got the portal steady enough to actually visit the past or take samples.

Does anyone know the name of the story and the author, and maybe what collection it might have been in?

  • 1
    Obligatory related video youtu.be/zPggB4MfPnk Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 17:39
  • Your memory is quite amazing. You mention school in the 70's or 80's, which means a book from ~35-40 years ago at school. I am trying very hard to remember a book with such details (basically the same setting) and I cannot think of any. And I was an avid reader, so there should be choice....
    – WoJ
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


This is "A Statue for Father" (1959) by Isaac Asimov.

From Wikipedia:

A theoretical physicist and his son work on the theory of time travel, and experiment with a method of reaching back into time and retrieving objects

More by serendipity than design, they manage to retrieve a nest of dinosaur eggs which in due course hatch. They keep on working but are unable to repeat the experiment. In the meantime, the dinosaurs grow and are kept as pets.

But when one of them accidentally gets electrocuted, they can't resist tasting the flesh beneath the scales and find that it tastes delicious.

The two men decide to raise the dinosaurs to be killed for food and open the first of a successful chain of restaurants dedicated to serving "dinachicken.".

The ironic twist of the title is that the physicist is remembered not for his scientific achievements, but for his culinary discovery

  • 2
    Damn. That was fast. So fast the site won't let me accept it for another 5 minutes.
    – JRE
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 20:51
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    I only read it like eight or nine days ago, so fairly straightforward
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 20:52
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    It wasn't a library book after all. My dad had a ragged out copy of "Buy Jupiter" and that's where I would have read it.
    – JRE
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 20:53
  • 3
    Ordered a copy of "Buy Jupiter." It also has "Shah Guido G."
    – JRE
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 21:33

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