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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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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.

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.

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