2 March, 2017 News stories

Raising Horizons: Portraits Highlighting Women in Archaeology and Geoscience Past and Present

British Antarctic Survey Director Professor Dame Jane Francis features in a new collection of photographic portraits of contemporary ‘trowelblazers’ posing as their historic counterparts.

Raising Horizons highlights the roles and contributions of women in the development of archaeology, palaeontology and geology whose achievements range from discovering footprints nearly a million years old, reconstructing Antarctica’s lost forests, multi-media explorations of prehistory and training virtually a whole generation of archaeologists.

Fourteen portraits, posed by women working in the field today, depict an imagined moment in time from the life of a historical counterpart. Based on evidence including original photographs, memoirs, biographies and fieldwork diaries, the exhibition brings to life forgotten women from the past, whilst highlighting their continuing impact and legacy through their connections to today’s pioneers.

Professor Francis is photographed posing as Marie Carmichael Stopes (1880 – 1958) preparing for her 1903 degree ceremony. Born in Scotland to intellectual parents her studies began at UCL where she got a first class joint degree in geology and botany in only two years. She went on to become the youngest person in Britain to gain a DSc from the same institution in 1903, then completed a PhD in palaeobotany in one year at the University of Munich. Following this she became the first female lecturer at Manchester University between 1904-10. By this time she had specialized in researching Carboniferous plants, and in particular the nature and formation of coal.

Professor Francis‘ research focuses on examining the environment and climate of the past through studying plant fossils. In 2013 she was appointed Director at the BAS, the first woman to hold this position. Her research is important not only for understanding the past condition of the Earth, but also significant as it points to how climate change may affect us in the next centuries.  Professor Francis has received many awards, including early in her career the Palaeontological Association’s President’s Award. Since then she has won the US Navy Antarctic Medal, the Antarctic Service Medal from the NSF, the Coke Medal from the Geological Society of London, been named “Explorer Scientist” by The Science Council and awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of  Leeds and Plymouth. In 2002 she was awarded The Polar Medal, only the fourth woman of over 4000 recipients, recognising her contribution to British polar science.

View portraits on the Raising Horizons website