Forgotten women in an extinct saurian (man’s) world
Published:January 01, 2010
Susan Turner, Cynthia V. Burek, Richard T. J. Moody, 2010. "Forgotten women in an extinct saurian (man’s) world", Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, R. T. J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish, D. M. Martill
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Despite dinosaurs becoming significant ‘icons’ in our culture, few women have made major contributions to the study of fossil vertebrates, especially reptilian taxonomy, by specializing in the dinosaurs and related ‘saurians’. Most who were involved over the first 150 years were not professional palaeontologists but instead wives, daughters and pure (and usually unpaid) amateurs. Here we salute some 40 of them, showing how some kept alive childhood dreams and others fell into the subject involuntarily. As usual nineteenth-century female practitioners are virtually unknown in this area except for one icon, Dorset girl Mary Anning of Lyme Regis, who significantly contributed to the palaeontology. Only in the early twentieth century did women such as Tilly Edinger conduct research with an evolutionary agenda. Before the modern post-1960s era, beginning with Mignon Talbot, few were scientists or conducting research; others such as Mary Ann Woodhouse, Arabella Buckley, the Woodward sisters, Nelda Wright were artists, photographers and/or writers, scientifically illustrating and/or popularizing dinosaurs. Like many other women, they often battled to get from first base to job, appear fleetingly in the literature then disappear; or exist as anonymous presences behind eminent men. In contrast, the modern era offers better prospects for those wanting to pursue dinosaurs and their relatives, even if it means volunteering for a dino dig, watching a live ‘Time team’-type dinosaur dig on TV or entering the Big Virtual Saurian World now on the Internet. This paper considers the problems and highlights the achievements of the oft-forgotten women.
Additional references and list of books and publications by or about deceased women related to ‘saurians’, including these mentioned in the text, are available at http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/SUP18419.
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Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective
The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’—a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin—makes exciting reading and has caught the attention of palaeontologists, historians of science and the general public alike. The papers in this collection go beyond the familiar tales about famous ‘fossil hunters’ and focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other inhabitants of the Mesozoic world. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of ‘modern’ scientific palaeontology in the 1700s to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to Central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well-known, others quite obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors, and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.