In 1900 Mesodromilities birleyae* a new genus and species of fossil crab, entered the scientific literature. It was named in honour of Caroline Birley (1851-1907), who was praised by her contemporaries for her “devotion to science” and her “indomitable” courage in amassing a huge and varied fossil collection on her travels across the world.

Without formal qualifications, she nevertheless not only went into the field, but engaged in the scientific community of th day, joining the Geologists’ Association and the British Association. Although Caroline collected and catalogued her finds, she had to leave their publication to the Keeper of Geology at the British Museum, Dr Henry Woodward. He named a second crab species after her in 1901.

She began her collecting trips aged 36, in Egypt, with her friend Louisa Copland. She went on to collect in the Faeroes, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Malta, France, Canada, Algeria, South Africa, and Germany. She focused on fossil shells, but also wrote on the botany of the Faeroes.

Caroline died from influenza, aged just 55, but her will ensured her legacy lives on in collections at Manchester, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Warrington and the British Museum, and the books she published as a children’s author.

“Since I first discovered Caroline , I have been struck by the strength of mind she must have possessed to pursue her passions, and gain such respect in high places”- David Craven

*Now re-classified as Mesodromilities glaber

Sources: Bolton Museum and Obituary

Written by @davidjcraven, edited and posted by Becky

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