Hugh Miller: introducing palaeobotany to a wider audience
The Hugh Miller collection (mainly NMS G.1859.33) held at the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, consists of 591 palaeobotanical specimens, 54 of which are of type and/or figured status. A preliminary assessment of this collection, in the light of renewed interest in Hugh Miller’s works in the bicentenary of his birth (2002), has provided new insights into this remarkable Scottish geologist. Miller, through writing popular articles in both newspaper and book format, publicized the various subdisciplines of palaeontology including palaeobotany. His distinctive writing style promoted public understanding of the science, and helped his readers to grasp the concept of deep time and the intricacies of past worlds. An appendix of type and figured material based on Miller’s collection is included.
Figures & Tables
Often regarded as the ‘Cinderella’ of palaeontological studies, palaeobotany has a history that contains some fascinating insights into scientific endeavour, especially by palaeontologists who were perusing a personal interest rather than a career. The problems of maintaining research facilities in universities, especially in the modern era, are described and reveal a noticeable absence of a national UK strategy to preserve centres of excellence in an avowedly specialist area. Accounts of some of the pioneers demonstrate the importance of collaboration between taxonomists and illustrators. The importance of palaeobotany in the rise of geoconservation is outlined, as well as the significant and influential role of women in the discipline. Although this volume has a predominantly UK focus, two very interesting studies outline the history of palaeobotanical work in Argentina and China.