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In 1921, exploration for oil and gas was substantially assisted by the discovery that foraminifera could be used to more accurately correlate subsurface strata. This changed everything. It was at a time when the petroleum industry did not have the benefit of geophysical logging tools or seismic mapping capabilities. Micropaleontology was quickly embraced by industry and almost instantly expanded to global use.

Three young women were responsible for this technological breakthrough—Alva Ellisor, Esther Applin née Richards, and Hedwig Kniker. They were hired by Texas oil companies in 1920–1921 for the express purpose of using paleontology, specifically macropaleontology, to try...

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