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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: Geopedia: A Brief Compendium of Geologic curiosities, by Marcia Bjornerud (with illustrations by Haley Hagerman)

This is a charming little book, which describes itself as an “admittedly idiosyncratic compendium of [geological] words and phrases chosen because they are portals into larger stories”. It succeeds brilliantly at its professed goal, combining a great deal of information, education, and a gentle sense of fun, brought out very nicely by some attractive and humorous illustrations.

Locations Nova Scotia (Part 3): Wasson’s Bluff – a locality near Parrsboro

George Burden (Canada) The Wasson’s Bluff fossil site, near Parrsboro, is the most geologically recent, yet perhaps the most fascinating of the locations of interest to palaeontologists in Nova Scotia. Located on the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Basin, fossil buffs can view what are perhaps the smallest dinosaur footprints ever … Read More

Book review: Locked in Time: Animal Behavior Unearthed in 50 Fossils, by Dean R Lomax, illustrated by Bob Nicholls

Dean Lomax, sometime author of articles in Deposits magazine, is certainly making a name for himself, and has been now for many years. For instance, in January 2022, he was on television explaining about a remarkable find at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. And now he continues his admirable efforts for popularise his chosen academic subject – palaeontology – in this fascinating book about the fossilisation of behaviour.

Book review: Isle of Wight: Landscape and Geology, by John Downes

This is another guide in the excellent “Landscape and Geology” series of local geological guides published by The Crowood Press. And this is as good as the others. Admittedly, it has a wonderful subject matter, because the Isle of Wight is a geological gem with its 110km long coastline displaying a range of rocks dating from Lower Cretaceous to Oligocene age. I know from personal experience that many of its sands and clays contain collectable fossil bivalves and gastropods, and its famous dinosaur footprints attract attention from both geologists and tourists, with always the possibility of finding a bone or two.

What is a reptile?

David L Rowe (UK) This is a short introduction to what is a reptile – an issue that is a lot more complex that it might seem. To understand what a Reptile is one first needs to understand the cladistic (which is a way of classifying life forms) method and … Read More

Book review: A Guide to Fossil Collecting on the East Dorset Coast

After having favourably reviewed the first two books in this three part series, I must admit I was very much looking forward to the publication of this last one. And, of course, I wasn’t disappointed. This is the third in a series of guides to safe and responsible fossil collecting along (this time), the East Dorset coast from the Chalk cliffs at Bat’s Head, across what are some of Dorset’s more remote coastal locations, to Hengistbury Head.

Book review: Rebels, Scholars, Explorers – Women in Vertebrate Paleontology, by Annalisa Berta and Susan Turner

This is certainly a somewhat different sort of book from those I usually review. As it makes clear, women have always played key roles in the field of vertebrate palaeontology, going back centuries. However, other than perhaps the most best known historical female vertebrate palaeontologists comparatively little is known about these women scientists and their true contributions have probably been obscured. In this context, the book aims to reveal this hidden history, thereby celebrating the diversity and importance of women VPs.