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Etheldred Benett of Wiltshire, England, the First Lady Geologist: Her Fossil Collection in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and the Rediscovery of "Lost" Specimens of Jurassic Trigoniidae (Mollusca: Bivalvia) with Their Soft Anatomy Preserved

Hugh S. Torrens, Elana Benamy, Edward B. Daeschler, Earle E. Spamer and Arthur E. Bogan
Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia
Vol. 150 (Apr. 14, 2000), pp. 59-123
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4065063
Page Count: 65
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Etheldred Benett of Wiltshire, England, the First Lady Geologist: Her Fossil Collection in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and the Rediscovery of "Lost" Specimens of Jurassic Trigoniidae (Mollusca: Bivalvia) with Their Soft Anatomy Preserved
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Abstract

Miss Etheldred Benett lived 1775-1845 in Wiltshire, England, where she was well known for her fossil collection of the area and for her contributions to the study of the region's biostratigraphy. She seems to have been the earliest British woman contributor to paleontological and stratigraphic work often conducted for other researchers, and for more than 30 years she was frequently acknowledged in the publications of paleontologists and geologists throughout Europe. Benett also published two catalogues of Wiltshire fossils, in which she named many new taxa. The second of these catalogues was self-published and was widely distributed, as far away as Russia. Most of her collection was sold after her decease. The majority of specimens, including most of her type specimens, came to Thomas Bellerby Wilson in Delaware, U.S.A., who donated them to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in installments between 1848 and 1852. The entire collection was annotated by British paleontologist Edward Charlesworth. Years afterward the collection was thought to be lost, despite contemporary notices that it had come to Wilson and the Academy. It was reintroduced to the scientific community in a 1989 publication, and 1,508 catalogued specimen lots are now recognized to comprise the Benett Collection. Contained in the collection are the first specimens of fossil mollusks--and apparently the first fossils ever--recognized to have had most of their soft anatomy preserved, in this case as apatite, first publicized (as silicified remains) in 1848 but subsequently said to be lost. These three specimens of Laevitrigonia gibbosa (J. Sowerby) were rediscovered in 1992. They are reintroduced to the scientific community here, with notes on anatomical comparisons to Recent Neotrigonia.

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