Who was Ida Slater?

Ida Lilian Slater (1881-1969) was born into a wealthy family members in Hampstead, London in 1881. She was a single of 4 youngsters of Mary Emily Wilkins (1846-unknown) and John Slater (1847-1924), a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA).

Slater went to the all-girls South Hampstead Higher College. A fantastic education and a thirst for information motivated her to then study geology at the Newnham College in Cambridge, exactly where she joined the Sedgwick Club and became its honorary secretary. Prior to becoming a geologist, Slater also explored geomorphology and stratigraphy.

Slater challenged the patriarchal technique of the Victorian era in a lot of approaches. Even though ladies have been permitted to study, they have been not permitted to graduate from most universities, like Cambridge. So she travelled solo to Dublin to obtain her very first class degree.

It was uncommon for a lady to travel unaccompanied for the duration of that time nevertheless Slater’s appreciate of mastering and discovery kept her driven. She continued to defy the norm by taking additional trips abroad to go to colleagues and do fieldwork.

Slater went on to make good strides in the field of palaeontology, specifically in the study of conulariids, a poorly understood group of fossils.

Dr Consuelo Sendino, an invertebrate’s curator at the Museum, says, ‘Slater produced crucial contributions to our understanding and information of the Early Palaeozoic, and of course the taxonomy of conulariids.’

Slater’s conulariid collection resides in the Museum. Consuelo believes it is the most effective in the planet in terms of diversity, and second-most effective in its quantity of specimens.

Consuelo says, ‘Her perform has been cited for more than a single hundred years and continues to be cited to this day by researchers on this group of fossils.’

A black and white photo of a group of first-year students at Newnham College (1900), with Ida Slater sitting at the front row, far right

Initial-year students at Newnham College (1900), with Ida Slater sitting at the front row, far appropriate © The Geological Society of London 2007


Pioneering in palaeontology

Ida’s earlier perform focused on geology, as evidenced in her very first paper, On the Probable Origin of Some Varieties of Valleys. In it, she explored the origin of U- and V-shaped valleys, concluding that the U-shaped ones have been not usually originated by ice action. The theory had by no means been regarded as nor researched, and was even disputed by other established male geologists.

Slater stood her ground, although it was not till the finish of the twentieth century that her theory was established appropriate. The paper was not published, although the summary can be observed in the notes she took as honorary secretary of the Sedgwick Club.

It was Henry Woods, Slater’s palaeontology lecturer in Cambridge, who acknowledged her passion and encouraged her to study conulariids. Conulariids have been when a sort of jellyfish polyp stage and then a group a fossils which had by no means been studied in Britain.

Collecting fossils was typically overlooked by guys as it was regarded as a pastime for middle-class ladies. This disregard gave ladies a possibility to demonstrate their genuine interest in science and leave a legacy for future generations. Slater was fantastic at spotting possibilities and saw this as a way of generating her mark.

A photograph of a specimen of Conularia quadrisulcata and its museum label

A specimen of Conularia quadrisulcata, described by Sowerby in 1821, out there at the Museum


To carry out her study, she frequented the British Museum, exactly where she met and became pals with Dr Arthur Smith Woodward, a former keeper of the Geological Division.

Woodward was impressed with Slater’s information and commitment, and asked her to prepare a monograph the British conulariids for the Palaeontographical Society, which was later completed and published in 1907.

In the course of her study, Slater travelled abroad to evaluate the Museum’s specimens to these of other institutions and private collectors, a process which is nevertheless followed these days.

She applied for funding – a further exceptional act for a Victorian lady – with the assistance of Woodward, and was awarded the Daniel Pidgeon Fund from the Geological Society to investigate Palaeozoic rocks of Wales. Slater’s ambition to make a distinction was beginning to come accurate.

Apart from palaeontology, geomorphology and stratigraphy, Slater was incredibly fantastic at illustrating. She secured perform as an illustrator and also made a series of drawings celebrating the signing of the Entente Cordiale of 1904, marked the finish of practically a thousand years of conflict in between Britain and France.

Her illustrations have been exhibited at the Franco-British Exhibition in London in 1908, a public fair that attracted more than eight million people today. This supplied her with considerably-necessary earnings.

Slater’s final year of right perform was for the duration of 1911 exactly where she worked component time as a demonstrator for a further trailblazing lady geologist, Catherine Raisin . She spent the rest of her time collaborating with Gertrude Lilian Elles and Ethel M R Wood on their monograph on graptolite plates. 

A black and white photo of a series of drawings

Drawings by Slater from Slater’s monograph


Ida Slater’s legacy

Slater ceased operating totally following marrying a Kensington solicitor in 1912. 

In spite of her brief scientific profession, Slater produced an effect in much more approaches than a single. She was a single of the handful of ladies to carve a spot in a planet of geological study dominated by guys, seek and obtain funding possibilities, travel solo about Europe and lastly became a demonstrator at an all-female college, inspiring the subsequent generation of female geologists. She also wrote 3 papers, a single monograph and drew plates for publications and exhibitions professionally.

When Slater is recognized for her perform in palaeontology, her results expands beyond that. She was, and nevertheless is, an epitome of female empowerment, displaying a lot of traits necessary to realize a dream. In a planet exactly where ladies have been presented with absolutely nothing but obstacles for wanting the very same possibilities as guys, Slater exhibited bravery, resilience, passion, determination and intelligence.

Her actions and achievements recommend she was ahead of her time, altering not only how ladies have been perceived in the skilled atmosphere but also inspiring other ladies to achieve the very same.

As ladies have been hardly ever credited for their input for the duration of that period, she may perhaps have accomplished even much more, which went unnoticed.

On the other hand, a single factor is for positive. Ida Lilian Slater certainly left her mark on the planet in much more approaches than a single.