Published on August 16th, 2022 | by Elsa Panciroli
Episode 142/143: The Palaeontographical Society
The year 2022 marks the 175th anniversary of The Palaeontographical Society. Established in 1847, PalSoc is the world’s oldest Society devoted specifically to the advancement of palaeontological knowledge. The primary role of PalSoc initially was to promote the description and illustration of British fossils, which it does through its monographs. These set the standard for depictions of fossils in scientific literature, and provided an outlet for palaeontologists to disseminate comprehensive descriptions and systematics of British extinct flora and fauna. Despite its vintage, very little has been written about this illustrious society.
In the first part of this two-part episode, we speak to Dr Victor Monnin, a historian of science who specialises in the history of palaeontology, especially palaeoart. We find out why he is excited at the prospect of further research into the history of the Society, and he explains how PalSoc influenced the way in which fossils were visually represented in scientific literature.
In part two we speak to Dr Caroline Buttler, a palaeontologist from National Museums of Wales, and the first woman president of PalSoc. She tells us how PalSoc is changing to meet the needs of the palaeontological community in the 21st Century, and we discuss the place of scientific monographs in modern scientific practice. She also reflects on the slow pace of change when it comes to diversity in scientific societies, and the role that women have played in PalSoc since its formation.
Orbigny AD. 1840. Paléontologie Française. Tome I, Terrains crétacés, Céphalopodes. Publ. Arthus Bertrand, Paris.
Owen R. 1853. A monograph of the fossil chelonian reptiles of the Wealden Clays and Purbeck Limestones. Monographs of the Palaeontographical Society, 7, 1-12.
Panciroli E, Jackson PNW and Crowther PR. 2021. Scientists, collectors and illustrators: the roles of women in the Palaeontographical Society. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 506, 97-116.
Wood SV. 1848. The Crag Mollusca: With Descriptions of Shells from the Upper Tertiaries of The British Isles. Monographs of the Palaeontographical Society, 1, 1–208.