Dorothea made science her career, which was extremely unusual at the time. Her job titles were as follows: - Palaeontologist (fossils of animals and plants) - Zoologist (study of animals) - Ornithologist (similar to zoologist but with birds).
Dorothea was extremely knowledgeable about animals and birds. She discovered evidence of many small and large mammals, birds and insects! She also became the first woman scientist to be employed at the Natural History Museum.
Dorothea was born on 8th November 1878. Her father was a Police Superintendent and she had an older sister and a younger brother. She had a limited education, and famously quoted that her education ‘was only briefly interrupted by school’.
Dorothea’s hobbies included fishing, bird watching and examining small mammals.
At the age of 19, she went into the Natural History Museum and demanded a job. She was given one and therefore became the first female scientist at the museum!
In 1898, when she was a teenager, Dorothea’s family moved to the Wye Valley.This gave her the opportunity to explore the caves, in which she had to climb around 50M to get to the top of ‘Merlin’s Cave’.
It was in the Wye Valley that Dorothea made her first discoveries. For example, she found 15 different species of mammals and birds that dated back to the Ice Age!
At aged 22, with great encouragement from the Natural History Museum, Dorothea published her first report about her findings on small-boned mammals.
Cyprus and the Mediterranean
In Cyprus, Dorothea collected over 200 specimens of mammals, birds and insects. She funded herself for 18 months of exploring!
In 1902, she won a grant from the Royal Society. With this, she discovered a new species of dwarf elephant. She then wrote a paper about this, which was then published.
Myotragus balearicus Bate. This reconstruction was exhibited in 1915.
Dorothea kept diaries of her explorations and her findings. She even wrote rules to herself, such as: ‘if you want a thing done well, do it yourself’.
Between 1935 and 1937, Dorothea excavated in Palestine. She discovered many animals that were 1.8 million years old, including: elephants, tortoises and a species of horse!
During WW2, Dorothea transferred to the Tring Museum, and was appointed to officer in-charge.
She died an internationally famous scientist on 13th January 1951.
Dorothea Bate excavating in Bethlehem 1935. The ridged tooth of an extinct early elephant can be seen to the right of the workman.
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