Gertrude Lilian Elles
|Died||18 November 1960 (aged 88)|
|Education||Wimbledon High School|
|Alma mater||University of Cambridge, Trinity College, Dublin|
|Known for||work on graptolites|
|Institutions||University of Cambridge|
Personal life and education
Born in 8 October 1872 in Wimbledon to parents who were Scottish, Elles was educated at Wimbledon High School and Newnham College, Cambridge, where in 1895 she received first class honours in the Natural Science tripos. She travelled to Dublin in 1905, to take her D.Sc. The University of Cambridge was not then awarding women degrees. Between 1904-1907 an arrangement was made between the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin to award women graduates of Cambridge and Oxford their degree in Ireland.
She did not marry and had no children. In the last 35 years of her life she became increasingly deaf. She finally moved back to Scotland, where she died in 1960.
Her work on the taxonomy and evolution of graptolites, using material from North Wales and the Skiddaw Slates of the Lake District, England and from the Wenlock Shales of the Welsh borders, was of fundamental importance. One of her innovations was to examine fossil communities rather than only individuals. She also worked on the stratigraphy of the Lower Palaeozoic, using graptolites as a tool to delineate time-zones.
Elles was the first woman to be awarded a readership position at Cambridge in 1924. She became Vice-principal of Newnham College in 1930. She continued to lecture and research until her retirement in 1938. She was made Reader Emeritus in 1938, and continued to supervise students.
Her excellence as a teacher was recognised by students. Some of the students that she supervised and mentored at Cambridge had significant careers in geology themselves including Dorothy Hill, Elizabeth "Betty" Ripper and Oliver Bulman.
Awards and Honours
The publications resulting from her research on graptolites were brought together in a book:
- Elles, G. L. & Wood, E. M. R. 1901–1918. Monograph of British Graptolites. Parts 1– 11. Palaeontological Society, London, Monographs, 1 – 539
Other papers that she authored or co-authored include:
- Elles, G. L. 1909. The relation of the Ordovician and Silurian rocks of Conway (North Wales). Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, 65, 169–194.
- Elles, G. L. 1922. The graptolite faunas of the British Isles. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 33, 168–200
- Elles, G. L. 1922. The Bala country: its structure and rock succession. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, 78, 132–175.
- Elles, G. L. & Slater, I. L. 1906. The highest Silurian rocks of the Ludlow district. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, 62, 195– 221.
- Elles, G. L. & Wood, E. M. R. 1895. Supplementary notes on Drygill Shales. Geological Magazine, 2, 216–249.
- Higgs, B. and Wyse, Jackson, P.N. (2007). "The role of women in the history of geological studies in Ireland In: Burek C.V. & Higgs B. (eds) The role of Women in the History of Geology". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281: 137–154. doi:10.1144/sp281.9.
- Burek, C. V. (1 January 2007). "The role of women in geological higher education Bedford College, London (Catherine Raisin) and Newnham College, Cambridge, UK". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281 (1): 9–38. doi:10.1144/SP281.2.
- "The Sedgwick Club". sedgwickclub.soc.srcf.net. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
- Burek, C. V.; Higgs, B. (1 January 2007). "The role of women in the history and development of geology: an introduction". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1144/SP281.1.
- Secord, James A.; Howells, Malcolm; Couples, Gary D.; Oldroyd, David. "Geological Tensions in an Idyllic Field". Metascience. 13 (1): 1–27. doi:10.1023/B:MESC.0000023262.37758.d2.
- Burek, C. V. (21 August 2009). "The first female Fellows and the status of women in the Geological Society of London". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 317 (1): 373–407. doi:10.1144/SP317.21.