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The role of British and German women in early 19th-century geology: a comparative assessment

M. Kölbl-Ebert
M. Kölbl-Ebert
Jura-Museum Eichstätt, Willibaldsburg, 85072 Eichstätt, Germany (e-mail:
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January 01, 2007


The history of the geosciences has largely been interpreted as a history of male scientists, but the inclusion of their social frame into historical research makes clear how women in various roles have participated in and shaped the history of geosciences.

The beginning of geological research in a modern sense occurred around 1800. In Germany, the early professionalization of geology and a rigid female gender model, idealizing female household duties and motherhood in a climate that was hostile to intellectual women, effectively precluded the collaboration of women, whereas in the largely non-professional culture of natural sciences in the United Kingdom, women were not excluded from participation.

In the United Kingdom at that time, wives, daughters and sisters, or even non-related female acquaintances, were an integral part of the infrastructure of British geology. They were often encouraged by leading scientists. As a result, there have been many female contributors, especially to palaeontology, in the early 19th century in the United Kingdom, forming a framework of assistants, secretaries, collectors, painters and field geologists to the leading figures in the geological sciences, thereby adding to and shaping their work.

Problems, however, arose, where women aspired to work on their own research programmes as independent female geologists.

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Figures & Tables


Geological Society, London, Special Publications

The Role of Women in the History of Geology

C. V. Burek
C. V. Burek
University of Chester, UK
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B. Higgs
B. Higgs
University College Cork, Ireland
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2007




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