Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11th February)

Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science 11th February PetroStrat

February the 11th is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day recognizes and celebrate the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

There isn’t just Mary Anning…

We would like to take this opportunity to shine a light upon some great female palaeontologists, in honour of this day.

Initially, we had the idea to write an article about Mary Anning as her amazing fossil discoveries instantly sprang to mind. Mary Anning was certainly an amazing palaeontologist, and over recent years she is certainly now becoming more recognised. There is even a 2020 movie, Ammonite, which gives her a silver screen treatment (there is a nice article on Time about this movie).

With this in mind, today we thought we could spotlight other important women who you may not have heard of. We hope you enjoy reading about these groundbreaking scientists, all at the forefront of their field!

Female Palaeontologist Spotlight – Johanna โ€œTillyโ€ Edinger

German-American palaeontologist (1897 – 1967)

Portrait of Tilly Edinger Public Domain
Portrait of Tilly Edinger (Public Domain, CC0 1.0)

Born into a Jewish German family in 1897, Johanna Edinger studied geology / palaeontology at the University of Heidelberg and Munich. After completing her basic university studies, she did research on the brain of the Triassic marine reptile Nothosaurus for her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Frankfurt 1918 – 1921.

She somewhat followed in the footsteps of her father Ludwig Edinger, a medical Professor, who founded a neurological research institute in Frankfurt, despite of not really being taken seriously for her research on fossils.

After her Ph.D. She held a curatorial position in vertebrate palaeontology at the Senckenberg museum in Frankfurt until she emigrated under the pressure of the Nazi regime in 1938 to London and 1940 to the US.

Founding the concept of paleoneurology and studying endocasts, which is the cast of the braincase in a skull, provided important insights about the evolution of the vertebrate brains and to some extent about the behaviours and abilities of extinct species. Her major publications are on fossil brains in general (1929), the evolution of the horse brain (1948) and bird & reptilian brains (1950).

Five other amazing female palaeontologists

Lynn Margulis 1938 โ€“ 2011

Evolution of cells with a nuclei as a result of symbiotic merging of bacteria. Co-developer of the Gaia hypothesis with James Lovelock.

Jane Francis 1956

Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the University of Leeds, as well as Director of British Antarctic Survey.

Mary Leakey 1913 โ€“ 1996

Groundbraking work on early human evolution at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and discoverer of the Laetoli early human footprints.

Meave Leakey 1942

Carrying on the Leakey families work on early hominid evolution in the Turkana Basin, East Africa.

Dianne Edwards 1942

Pioneering research of plant evolution colonising the continents.

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