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One hundred and fifty years of palaeobotany at Manchester University

Joan Watson
Joan Watson
Palaeobotany Laboratory, Williamson Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
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January 01, 2005


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.

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Geological Society, London, Special Publications

History of Palaeobotany: Selected Essays

A.J. Bowden
A.J. Bowden
National Museums Liverpool, UK
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C.V. Burek
C.V. Burek
University College, Chester, UK
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R. Wilding
R. Wilding
History of Geology Group, UK
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2005




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