One hundred and fifty years of palaeobotany at Manchester University
The year 2001 marked the 150th anniversary of the appointment of William Crawford Williamson to the Chair of Natural History at Owens College, which later became the Victoria University of Manchester. Since 1851 a palaeobotanical presence in Manchester has been continuous, apart from 1940 to 1950. The history of the various incumbents in academic posts and their contributions are charted and discussed. They include Williamson, Weiss, Lang, Stopes, Walton and Watson. Other palaeobotanists associated with Manchester were students, museum staff or incumbents of various ancillary appointments, and there were many distinguished visitors. The total number of students registered for higher degrees is remarkably few, nearly half studying with Watson in the past 20 years. The proportion of women palaeobotanists, counting staff and postgraduate students, is very high. The research output from Manchester includes most British fossil floras, and impressive attention to devising and improving laboratory techniques from Williamson to the present day. There is evidence that palaeobotany in Manchester has been considered an anachronism even from Williamson’s time and it now faces extinction in 2005.