In these times, when the classic discipline of palaeontology is diminishing, there is a demanding need to inspire the next generation of palaeontologists – and perhaps also to make this field of scientific research more approachable. Otherwise, we are in the risk of losing generations of knowhow and a great tradition of studying time, through the evolution of life.
In that sense, this recent volume on the world of palaeontologists, by the widely acclaimed researcher and palaeontologist, Dr David Penney (Honorary Lecturer at University of Manchester) presents a fitting hymn to the study of fossils. This is set out as a more personal account – and evidently the result of a great passion for fossils and palaeontology – the book is also a very welcome practical advice on to how to pursue a career as a palaeontologist and what it may bring.
Using a wide selection of images related to palaeontology, including photos, technical drawings and figures, Penney makes the content of the book easier accessible – in a more abstract sense – thereby providing a clear picture of the great variety of fields palaeontologists work within, and thereby emphasising that palaeontology is – or should be – one of the strongest scientific disciplines.
Coming from a country, where only around a handful of people are working professionally with palaeontology as their core topic, I think there is a great need for broadening the knowledge of palaeontology, and therefore there may also be a real need for such a book. In fact, it really is an easy must-read for the aspiring palaeontologist and, coming in the size of a booklet or field guide, at a fairly reasonable price, this book should be in permanent stock at all libraries, and in my view, especially in school libraries. Because truly, I think there is a small palaeontologist hidden in all of us, but it is more evident in the younger generations. Having a daughter wanting to become a palaeontologist, to me at least, this book has been quite an inspiration.
So you want to be a Palaeontologist? Practical advice for fossil enthusiasts of all ages, by Dr David Penney, Siri Scientific Press, Manchester, UK (2016). 64 pp, paperback, ISBN: 978-0-9929979-6-0.