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In 1963 he became aware of the bristlecone populations in the Snake Range and on Wheeler Peak in particular.

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One version has it that he broke or lodged his only long increment borer and could not obtain another before the end of the field season, another claims he broke two of them, while another implies that a core sample was too difficult to obtain and also would not provide as much definitive information as a full cross section of the tree would.

In addition, there are conflicting views over the uniqueness of Prometheus in the Wheeler Peak grove.

Whether Prometheus should be considered the oldest organism ever known depends on the definition of "oldest" and "organism" one uses.

For example, certain sprouting or clonal organisms, such as creosote bush or aspen, could have older individuals if the entire clonal organism is considered.

It is reported that Currey and/or the Forest Service personnel who authorized the cutting believed the tree was just one of many large, very old trees in the grove, while others, at least one of whom was involved in the decision-making and tree cutting, believe that the tree was clearly unique — obviously older than other trees in the area.

At least one person involved says that Currey knew this to be true at the time, although there is no known admission from Currey himself that he knew this, and others have disputed that the tree was obviously older than others.

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The tree was cut down on August 6, 1964 by a graduate student and United States Forest Service personnel for research purposes. Different versions of the event and the decision-making process behind it exist, although a number of basic facts are agreed upon.

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