Skip to Main Content
Book Chapter

Invincible but mostly invisible: Australian women’s contribution to geology and palaeontology

S. Turner
S. Turner
Monash University School of Geosciences, Victoria 3800, Australia; Queensland Museum, 122 Gerler Road, Hendra, Queensland 4011, Australia (e-mail:
Search for other works by this author on:
January 01, 2007


Women have played a significant role in Australian geoscience, and especially in palaeontology. ‘Australian’ women gained degrees by the early 20th century and began to contribute intensively. Australian-born young women already immured to the rigours of climate and culture, collected and illustrated fossils, enrolled in the first university courses, thrived in the field, in some instances outnumbering and out-achieving men. Where women palaeontologists made their mark they often energetically concentrated on a taxonomic group, making them their own, as Isabel Cookson did with palynology, Joan Crockford with bryozoans, Irene Crespin especially with foraminifans, Dorothy Hill with corals, Ida Brown with brachiopods, Nell Ludbrook with molluscs, Elizabeth Ripper with stromatoporoids, Kathleen Sherrard with graptolites, and Mary Wade, initially with foraminiferans and then the Ediacaran fauna. Brown, Crespin, Hill, Ludbrook, Wade and their contemporaries did alpha taxonomy, classical geology and biostratigraphical studies that laid the foundations for making maps and work that became recognized nationally and internationally. Some achieved greatness; some – Hill, Cookson, Ludbrook and Phillips Ross – by leaving the country, either to gain their higher degree or to work. Many – for example, Hosking, Johnston, Prendergast, Richards, Ripper, Sullivan and Vincent – are or have been mere shadowy figures with a few publications and then oblivion or even tragedy. Women in geosciences spanning the 20th century in Australia contributed some hundreds of scientific papers, maps and textbooks.


AAP, Association of Australasian Palaeontologists; AAS, Australian Academy of Science; AMDEL, Australian Mineral Development Laboratories; ANZAAS, Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science; ARC, Australian Research Council; BAAS, British Association for the Advancement of Science; BMNH, British Museum (Natural History), now The Natural History Museum; BMR, Bureau of Mineral Resources, now Geoscience Australia; CSIRO, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; FGS, Fellow of the Geological Society, London; GA, Geological Association, London; GSA, Geological Society of Australia; GSL, Geological Society, London; GS, Geological Survey (GSNZ, New Zealand; GSQ, Queensland; GSSA, South Australia; GST, Tasmania; GSV, Victoria; GSWA, Western Australia); IGCP, International Geological Correlation Programme (now International Geoscience Programme); IUGS, International Union of Geological Sciences; MBE, Member of the order of the British Empire; NSW, New South Wales; OBE, Officer of the British Empire; PIRSA, Primary Industries Research, South Australia; QLD, Queensland; SA, South Australia; U, University (ANU, Australian National; CU, Cambridge, UK; MU, Melbourne; MUGS, MU Geology Section; SU, Sydney; UA, Adelaide; UMA, MU Archives; UN, University of Newcastle; UNE, New England; UNSW, New South Wales; UQ, Queensland; UT, Tasmania; UWA, Western Australia); UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

You do not currently have access to this article.
Don't already have an account? Register

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
Search for other works by this author on:
B. Higgs
B. Higgs
University College Cork, Ireland
Search for other works by this author on:
Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2007




A comprehensive resource of eBooks for researchers in the Earth Sciences

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

View Article Abstract & Purchase Options

For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription.

Subscribe Now