It is remarkable to me that two palaeontologists share this birthday (11th March). Both are connected in someway to Bristol, England and to the University of Adelaide and both have published papers on the Cambrian fossils of South Australia and the Cenozoic marine mollusc fossils of South Australia.
One of the two, Professor Ralph Tate (1840-1901), is a bit of a hero of mine and probably everyone else who has an interest in the evolution of Australia’s marine mollusc fauna. Since many of you may not be familiar with him I’ll give you a short bio here.
He was born in Northumberland, England and was the son of a science and maths teacher. He studied geology from an early age (begining at 12) and was appointed senior science master in the Trade and Mining School at Bristol before his 25th birthday. By the age of 24 he was curator of the Geological Society of London. After a stint as a technical officer for a mining company in Central and South America he took up the position of Elder Professor of Natural Science at the University of Adelaide in 1975, where he went on to assist in the founding of the Adelaide Philosophical Society and the Royal Society of South Australia.
He also had a strong interest in botany as well (having published on the flora of the Shetlands before leaving England for South Australia) and travelled extensively throughout Australia, collecting plants, minerals and fossils.
Major acheivements include being the first to recognise ancient glacial pavements at Hallett’s Cove, South of Adelaide (these are now known to be part of a major ice-age that struck Gondwana during the Late Carboniferous and Early Permian while our early tetrapod ancestors lolled about in coal swamps to the north) and being the first to recognise and publish on the Cambrian sediments on York Peninsula (still one of the best sources of Early Cambrian small shelly fossils in the world). But it is for his pioneering work on the marine Cenozoic faunas of southern Australia that I know him best. He single handed described 626 marine invertebrate fossil species in a series of more than 15 monographs and papers.
I was extremely honoured when in 1994 I recieved the Tate Medal, a prize awarded to the best honours research project of the year, for a graduating student of the Department of Geology, University of Adelaide.
So who is the second palaeontologist with this birthday? oh that’s me.
In Adam related news a process that was begun well over a year ago has finally culminated in me being awarded permanent residency status in South Africa. This is good news because it means I’ll be able to devote more time to all the wonderfull discoveries we made over the past two weeks while moving the BPI collections into the newly refurbished collections room (We’ve got compactuses and sliding drawers now!). Maybe I should blog about them sometime.