Saturday, February 13, 2016

Culture (1)

Two asides.  The first.  I get plenty of reading time with my daily commute from Sheffield to Leicester, and very much enjoyed Remarkable Creatures, by Tracey Chevalier.  It is the story of two women who looked for and found fossils, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot.  There are so many facets to the story - the attitude of men to women, of male scientists to female fossil hunters, of the landowning class to the working class.  Anning discovered new species of creature, preserved as fossils in the continually sliding Dorset cliffs, and yet it was not her name that appeared by one of them in a London collection, but the name of the local landowner who owned the land that the creature was found on, and who saw nothing wrong with his name being there and not hers.   Then there is the shock posed the fossils to people taking the account of creation in the Book of Genesis literally.  What were the fossils?  What happened to the creatures - why were there none still living?   Did God kill them off?    Or were they a puzzle to be solved.

And the scientific literature features too, written by the male scientists and not the female fossil finders, although one of them reads papers that she is sent.   

A fascinating read, which I would recommend. More about it on Tracey Chevalier's website, including a gallery of fossils.

Image from, a painting kept at the Natural History Museum in London which was owned by her brother Joseph.

I'd heard about Mary Anning a long time ago, as I used to spend my summer holiday in Lyme Regis, where she lived and where she went fossil hunting.  It was where my grandmother lived, and for a time she lived in Anning Road.

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