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Honour for pioneering scientist Dorothea.

Byline: Caitlin O'Sullivan newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

AWOMAN who was one of the outstanding scientists of her generation is to be honoured in her hometown.

Dorothea Bate - a celebrated fossil hunter who clinched a job at the Natural History Museum aged just 19 - was born in Carmarthen in 1878.

She worked all over the world and is hailed as a pioneer with her research still being referenced today.

Now her birth place - the listed Napier House - is to bear a blue plaque to mark her part in uncovering the past and the world of paleontology.

Such was her love for the natural world that she marched into the Natural History Museum, London, and simply demanded a job.

There, she began work sorting bird skins in the department of zoology's bird room and later preparing fossils.

Mary Thorley, a member of Carmarthen's Civic Society, which is planning the blue plaque, said: "Despite being so young and having no qualifications, she became the first women employed in a scientific capacity by the museum.

"The job they gave her doesn't sound very attractive as it involved sorting through and classifying bird skins.

"Nevertheless, she was to be employed by the museum for the next 50 years and she became an expert in the field of archaeozoology."

Mrs Thorley added: "The focus of her life's work was the exploration of how and why different species adapt and change. She undertook this by studying fossils.

"She was also fascinated by archaeology and, therefore, specialised in archaeozoology. "In the course of her work, she led digs on the islands of Cyprus, Crete, Malta and other parts of the Mediterranean Sea.

"It is not surprising that she became an expert in climatic interpretation.

"She also undertook explorations in China and Palestine and one of the highlights of her career was the discovery of fossilised elephant remains and the bones of a giant tortoise in Bethlehem.

"Her 'finds' were transported back to the museum in Kensington.

"In 1940 she was elected fellow of the Royal Geological Society."

The Second World War greatly curtailed her journeys but she worked in the museum's zoological branch in Hertfordshire and became officer in charge there.

She carried on working and exploring until her death in January 1951.

She wrote many scientific papers, and was widely known as an authority of Mediterranean fossil mammals.

Many famous anthropologists relied on her skill, including Louis and Mary Leakey, Charles McBurney, and John Desmond Clark.

Trefor Thorpe, of the Carmarthen Civic Society, said: "Dorothea Bate was born the daughter of a superintendent of police.

"She lived there for a couple of years before the family moved to another property a mile or so out of town.

"Dorothea ultimately became a renowned palaeontologist and the first woman employed at the Natural History Museum in London, an outstanding and, for a woman, remarkable achievement in the late 19th century/early 20th century.

"Over many years both Carmarthen Civic Society and Carmarthen Town Council have been instrumental in celebrating famous local personages and events by erecting blue plaques and publicising town trails to view them and the buildings associated with them.

"In this case the society have been unanimous in supporting the celebration of one of Carmarthen's most distinguished academic women."

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<B Dorothea Bate was the first woman to work at the Natural History Museum, London. Left, she was born at Napier House, Carmarthen (c) The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London [2017]. All rights reserved
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 4, 2017
Words:580
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