Emily Dix was born in Wales in 1904 and was a dedicated paleobotanist who made important early contributions to the field. After earning a certificate in history, botany, and geography, she attended University College Swansea, where she studied geology, botany, and math. She focused on the fossil flora of southern Wales alongside the likes of T. Neville George and Professor A. E. Trueman. Her research also took her to the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, where she worked with the David Davies collection. At one point, she received funding from government grants for coal mining. In 1929, she became a fellow of the Geological Society. The next year she joined Bedford College, London as a lecturer. In 1933 she became Dr. Emily Dix when she submitted a paper on coal seams in south Wales to the University of Wales. She received such prestigious grants as the Murchison Fund from the Geological society in London for her work establishing nine different floral zones in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, providing a way of organizing fossil flora. In 1935, she attended the Second International Carboniferous Congress in Heerlen.

After moving to Cambridge with the rest of Bedford College in WWII, she and Dr. Leonard Hawkes kept the department alive throughout the war years. Unfortunately, a large portion of her paperwork was lost during the war. After the college moved back to London following the war, there is not much recorded activity. She was exhausted, both emotionally and mentally, and lived out the rest of her life in a mental institution from 1945 until her death on the last day of 1972.

dix landscape

 

One can only imagine what she may have accomplished in a time of peace and what her lost work entailed. Her influence can still be seen in multiple collections in the UK, including The National Museum of Wales and Galleries in Cardiff, the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, and the Sedgewick Museum in Cambridge, where her fossil finds rest.

Suggested by Neil Clark and written by Shelby Watts.

Images digitised from the Geologists Association Carreck Archive, reproduced with permission of British Geological Survey. Permit no. CP16/075.

References 

Burek, C. 2005. Emily Dix, palaeobotanist – a promising career cut short. Geology Today 21: 144-145.

Pennington, C. 2015. The historic role of women scientsits at BGS and a look at what is happening today.  Geoblogy.

 

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