Sep 24, 2018

Australian Google celebrates 111 birthday of the late Dorothy Hill

On Sunday September 9th Google’s banner headline in Australia ( ) celebrated the 111th birthday of a palaeontologist – the late  Dorothy Hill (1907-1997).
Category: 2018
Posted by: Sarah

Australian born and bred, Dorothy Hill came to Cambridge to do a Ph D at Newnham College in the 1930s, studying Palaeozoic corals with Dr Gertrude Elles.

In 1931, the 24 year-old Dorothy Hill arrived in Cambridge on a University of Queensland Foundation Travelling Scholarship. During her seven years in Cambridge, Hill published important papers on the systematics and terminology of the extinct rugose corals, whilst also establishing their distinctive morphology and structure. From this research she donated some 500 fossil specimens, mostly corals to the Sedgwick Museum.

On return to Australia, Hill’s Cambridge research laid the foundation for her pioneering studies on the vast tracts of Palaeozoic limestones, which outcrop across the continent. Her detailed understanding of the coral faunas allowed Hill to establish their relative age and stratigraphy. And, this work helped establish a worldwide standard for coral biostratigraphy in the same way as the graptolite research of her Cambridge mentor Gertrude Elles had done for older Palaeozoic strata. Hill’s work was recognized internationally and she became an author of the coelenterate volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology.

In the University of Queensland Dorothy Hill rose through the academic ranks to become a full professor in 1960. Whilst working in the Sedgwick Museum and Department of Geology she had come to appreciate the value of an excellent departmental library. As a result she developed a geology department library in the University of Queensland, which now bears her name, whilst her extensive collections of rocks, fossils and thin sections were donated to the University’s Geology Museum. She was described as the “most outstanding graduate in the first 75 years of the University” and was the first Australian woman to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her encouragement of women in science was recognized in 2002 when the Australian Academy of Science initiated a Dorothy Hill Award for female researchers in earth sciences. 

Several specimens of Rylestonia benecompacta from the Carboniferous Limestone of Rylstone, Yorkshire studied by Dorothy Hill Dibunophyllum one of the Carboniferous age corals from Wales studied by Dorothy Hill; 

Douglas Palmer

Sedgwick Museum



Sarah Wallace-Johnson, the Museum’s Conservator, updates us on progress with the Forbes Building at West Cambridge.

How do you get thirty-six 8-11yr olds excited about science in museums? Give them a ‘crime scene’ and skills to solve the crime.

Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to the North-West Passage has often been in the news ever since he left England on the 19th May, 1845 never to return. Successive searches throughout the 19th century eventually found artefacts and human remains. But it was not until 2014 the wreck of Franklin’s ship, HMS Erebus was found and two years later the wreck of HMS Terror. Now the extraordinary story of HMS Erebus is receiving new publicity thanks to the publication of Michael Palin’s new book – ‘Erebus : the story of a ship’. Whilst the earliest searches did not find any traces of Franklin and his crew, one of them, led by Captain Kellett did find a superb mammoth tusk, which is now part of the Sedgwick Museum’s Ice Age display.