Riccardo Levi-Setti: Experimental physicist and trilobite expert

Steve Koppes (USA) Although he is an experimental physicist who discovered new elementary particles in the early 1950s and invented the high-resolution scanning ion microprobe, Riccardo Levi-Setti also is known in paleontological circles for co-discovering a giant trilobite subspecies and for his book, Trilobites. Decades ago, as a diversion, Levi-Setti … Read More

The forgotten women in UK geoscience

Megan Jacobs (UK) The history of geosciencein the UK is heavily dominated by men, with eminent figures such as Sir Richard Owen, Charles Lyell, William Buckland and Gideon Mantell famed for making many big advances in the early days of the science. However, in the background were powerful and intelligent women, leading, directing, guiding, even pushing their husbands with hard work. Tenacity and dedication to the subject and, presumably devotion and loyalty to their respective spouses. Ultimately, a small army of behind-the-scenes women advanced the science by leaps and bounds, such that, by the end of the nineteenth century, they had laid the foundations for women to move from the peripheries of academe to its heart. During the 1800s and early 1900s, male scientists often had female assistants, whose research and findings were included in the lead scientists’ work. However, as the women themselves were not labelled as scientists, they did not receive the acknowledgement or credit they rightly deserved. It has been said that some women published scientific papers using a male pseudonym, allowing for their research to be revealed to the scientific community, without suffering the repercussions of an elitist and blatantly sexist society. In recent years, we have become increasingly more aware of women’s contributions to science and the often-unfair treatment they received from the 1600s, until the last couple of decades. Certainly, the most famous woman in the earth sciencesof the nineteenth century must be Mary Anning. At the time, she went mostly uncredited and faced … Read More

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Rob Hope (France) Ahh, fossil footprints… simultaneously tantalising, evocative and enigmatic! Trace fossils of footprints are known throughout the world, including in the Jura Mountains of both France and Switzerland. Recently, near the tiny French village of Coisia, about 30km north of Geneva, a large slice of rock has revealed … Read More

Book review: A Geological Field Guide to the Himalaya in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, by Dr Daniel Clark-Lowes

This book has something of an aspirational, rather than practical, feel to it. However, there is no doubt – in my mind anyway – that it is the best book on the geology of the Himalaya I have read. It is written with a nice light touch, with some humour. And it covers far more than just geology – where appropriate, it includes history, especially about the exploration of the subcontinent, and Asian culture.

Mineral focus: rutile

Rutile is a metallic-grey to earthy-red, brown, violet or black mineral, largely composed of titanium dioxide (TiO2). It is the most naturally occurring form of this particle and has among the highest refractive indices of any known mineral. It also has a hardness rating of 5.5 to 6.5. Apart from … Read More

Book review: Alderney and La Hague: an Excursion Guide, by Dave Went

I never realised just how diverse the rocks of this – the smallest of the Channel Islands – is. They are clearly well exposed and easily seen along the coast (and the cliffs are wonderful to look at). The guide also points out that the island’s rocks provide the best opportunity to see intrusive, igneous suites of the Cadomian orogeny (a tectonic event or series of events in the late Neoproterozoic, about 650 to 550 million years ago),and the lower Cambrian fluvial strata associated with post-Cadomian sedimentation. And I know from personal experience that each of the walks will be a delight, as the island is phenomenally beautiful.

Book review: The Lewisian: Britain’s oldest rocks, by Graham Park

Recently, I have finished the Great Silurian Controversy, a magnificent book about the nineteenth century arguments over the age of the lower Palaeozoic greywackes/sediments of Devon, and the creation of the concept of the Devonian. And reading The Lewisian: Britain’s oldest rocks by Graham Park, perhaps it occurs to me that this should perhaps be called, The Great Lewisian Controversy. It shares the same historical and scientific intentions, and the same grand sweep of scientific history from the early twentieth century, namely, the exploration over decades of the geology of the Lewisian of northwest Scotland.

Book review: Cro-Magnon: The Story of the Last Ice Age People of Europe, by Trenton W Holliday

The Cro-Magnons were a population of early modern humans (that is, they were physically indistinguishable from us, today), who lived in Europe between about 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, during the Upper Palaeolithic period. This information comes from Trenton Holliday’s excellent book, which tells the story of these people in the context of recent scientific advances. However, while it does not shy away from complex scientific issues, the book is written with a light, understandable touch.

A foraminiferan adventure

Michael Hesemann (Germany) Two years ago, I joined an evening course on microfossils. I started by learning the proper use of microscopes and observing 4 to 5cm (that is, rather big) fossil otholiths (that is, the ear stones of fish). Soon ostracods, nummulites, smaller foraminifera and diatoms were given to … Read More

Mineral Focus: Kaolinite

Kaolinite is a clay mineral, first described in 1867 for its occurrence in the Jari River basin, Brazil. It is very common and is extensively mined in the UK, France, Brazil, Australia, India, Korea, USA and China. The mineral is mined under the name of Kaolin, but is more commonly … Read More