Rebels, Scholars, Explorers: Women in Vertebrate Paleontology

Annalisa Berta and Susan Turner. Johns Hopkins University, $49.95 (344p) ISBN 978-1-4214-3970-9
Paleontologists Berta and Turner deliver a valuable encyclopedia of female vertebrate paleontologists, or VPs. Their instructive, well-organized reference, targeted at readers with some knowledge of the field (not all terminology is defined), highlights how women have helped vertebrate paleontology shape science’s “understanding of the history of life.” Berta and Turner begin with 19th-century “bone-hunting icon” Mary Anning, discoverer of a nearly intact plesiosaur in 1824, following up with brief biographies of other important figures, such as Fanny Rysam Mulford Hitchcock, the first American female VP to publish, and Elga Mark-Kurik, who uncovered a transitional fossil between fish and land-dwelling animals. Along with historical firsts and discoveries, the coauthors share some maddening tales of gender inequity, such as about Mary Buckland, forbidden by her husband, fellow VP William Buckland, from attending scientific conferences. This didn’t prevent him from relying on her help: when he “awoke with an idea about fossil tracks at two o’clock one morning,” she gamely helped “by covering the kitchen table with pie crust dough while he fetched their pet tortoise and together they confirmed” that its footprints matched those of a recently discovered fossil. Women in science will appreciate Berta and Turner’s tribute to female trailblazers in paleontology. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/14/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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