Gertrude Elles: The pioneering graptolite geologist in a woolly hat. Her career, her achievements and personal reflections of her family and colleagues
AffiliationUniversity of Chester; Open University
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AbstractGertrude Elles gained worldwide renown for her seminal work with Ethel Wood on ‘A Monograph of British Graptolites’ which is still used today. She gained the MBE, pioneered female geological education, became the first female reader in Cambridge University and one of the first tranche of female Fellows of the Geological Society in 1919. An eccentric with a vast array of hats, PhD students and lodgers, she was a stalwart member of the Sedgwick Club and life member of the British Federation of University Women. She wrote obituaries for colleagues describing their achievements with humour and good nature. Her family describe her as ‘a fabulous woman’ with a huge range of interests including archaeology, botany and music. She related her geological and botanical knowledge in showing a nephew that plants growing along the Moine Thrust reflected change in the underlying rocks. Cambridge colleagues recall her as a ‘marvellous and well-respected figure’ who caused some amusement by her big old cluttered table from which she swept away material making room for new samples (and work for technicians). She died in 1960 in her beloved Scotland. However, her legacy survives in the classification of a group of fossils extinct for nearly 400 million years. The well documented career and achievements of Gertrude Elles (Burek 2002, 2007, 2009, 2014, Creese 1994, 2004) establish her as a great geologist who was ahead of her time and had an enduring love of the outdoors, particularly the Scottish Highlands. Her outstanding contribution to the field of palaeontology was ‘A Monograph of British Graptolites’ which she co-authored with Ethel Wood and which is still widely used today. She was also an inspirational lecturer, always remembered for her enthusiasm and as an advocate for women’s education and advancement. From several personal accounts, she was identified as an amazing, slightly eccentric person with wide ranging interests and knowledge. Her family called her G and speak of her with pride. ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT Downloaded from http://sp.lyellcollection.org/ by guest on October 27, 2020 Cambridge colleagues called her Gertie (but not to her face!) and remember her with affection, respect and some amusement. The ‘woolly hat’ in the title refers to one of the best-known photos of her (Fig.1), and because she had a vast array of hats. The reason for this collection was her appointment in the department in Cambridge, which required women to wear hats when lecturing (Burek 2007).
CitationTubb, J. & Burek C.V. (2020). Gertrude Elles: the pioneering graptolite geologist in a woolly hat. Her career, her achievements and personal reflections of her family and colleagues. in Burek C.V. & Higgs B., Celebrating the centenary of the first female Fellows of the Geological Society, Special publication 506.
PublisherGeological Society of London
Series/Report no.Sepcial Publication of the Geological Society 506
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