Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science – aimed at disabling long-standing gender stereotypes and biases that are steering girls and women away from science. What better way to celebrate than to talk about my favourite woman in palaeo from days gone by, Tilly Edinger. (Yes, I’ve mentioned her before).
Johanna Gabrielle Ottilie “Tilly” Edinger (1897–1967) was born into a prominent Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany, to Anna (Goldschmid) Edinger, a prominent social activist and feminist, and Ludwig Edinger, a comparative neurologist. Tilly received her doctorate in natural philosophy from the University of Frankfurt in 1921 and became the curator of fossil vertebrates at the Senckenberg Museum in 1927.
Increased Nazi power in Germany forced Edinger to eventually flee from Germany in 1939. After finding refuge first in England, she continued her career at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, USA. She was the first woman to be elected President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (1963).
Tilly Edinger almost singlehandedly founded modern palaeoneurology, the study of ‘fossil brains’ and neural evolution, during the 1920s. Her first research paper (1921) described the natural endocast of the Mesozoic marine reptile Nothosaurus. Dr Tilly Edinger documented all previous examples of natural “endocasts”, examined them systematically and drew inferences about evolution. Prior to Tilly Edinger, scientists only looked at comparative neurology without any input through geological time.
My favourite aspect of my own research is the palaeoneurology of early fish and the first tetrapods, and I’m honoured to continue work is this almost century-old field established by a truly great woman of palaeo. Thank you, Tilly.
#WomenInScienceDay #WomenInSTEM #TillyEdinger #palaeoneurology
- Most of the information about Tilly Edinger was gleaned from the TrowelBlazers website (https://trowelblazers.com/tilly-edinger/) or the Jewish Women’s Archive (https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/edinger-tilly).