Britain and Ireland



A historical summary of some key graptolite workers

Ethel Wood

Born 17th July 1871 near Bedford

She attended Newnham College, Cambridge which in 1881 were allowed to sit the Tripos exams which were a combination including Geology. By 1885, 80% of women at Newnham College were sitting their exams (Tuke 1939) and Ethel graduated in 1896.

During her time at Newnham, Ethel was strongly influenced, much like her peers, by Dr Marr and Professor Hughes who were liberal in their attitudes to female geologists and encouraged their participation at every level. Ethel left Newnham College and moved to Birmingham, where she stayed for 10 years (1896-1906). During this time she was Professor Lapworth’s research secretary and with his help, he presented her work and lead to her becoming a published author firstly with the paper “The Lower Ludlow Formation and its Graptolite Fauna” of which she received the Wollaston Fund  award. But then again in 1906 looking at the "Upper Llandovery of the Tarannon Series" and of course she had started her most famous joint work with Gertrude Elles on the “Monograph of British Graptolites”

However, in 1906 she married Gilbert Shakespear of whom she co-wrote the Tarannon paper with and a student of St John’s Cambridge and as was customary at the time she gave up her job with Prof. Lapworth. she did however continue publishing the Monograph until its completion in 1914 and was affiliated with Newnham College until 1920.

In 1920, aged 49, she was made a Dame of the British Empire, not for her geological work however but for her contribution to the War Pensions Commission, of which she was a founding member. (National Archives, 1921). After WWI many of her friends encouraged Ethel to return to her research but her social work meant that she never did.


(Wilkinson J, (2015) BIGG september presentation)

Ethel Wood (1871-1946)