Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


LARSEN, Kristine, Physics and Earth Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley St, New Britain, CT 06050,

In order for us to analyze the present situation for women in science, we need to reflect on their role in the past. Just as is the case in the science of geology at large, “the past is the key to the present.” However geology has lagged behind her sister sciences in exploring the past contributions made by (and difficulties encountered by) women in its ranks. A woman geologist and paleontologist deserving of serious study is Carlotta Joaquina Maury (1874 -1938), a native of the small village of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York and the younger sister of Harvard astronomer Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira Maury (1866 - 1952). A Ph.D. graduate of Cornell University, Carlotta studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and taught for several years at Columbia and Barnard Colleges and the University of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. She investigated microfossils in drilling samples along the Texas and Louisiana coasts and was given an official title as a paleontologist for the Louisiana Geological Survey. In 1910 Carlotta was recruited to be the paleontologist for oil geologist A.C. Veatch’s year-long geological expedition to Venezuela, a study funded by the General Asphalt Company of Philadelphia. Her detailed scientific analysis of the fossilized flora and fauna of Trinidad was published as volume 64 of the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Carlotta defied the conventional wisdom concerning women and field work and in 1916 led an expedition to the Dominican Republic, during a period of violent political upheaval on the island. She identified hundreds of new species of fossils and revised estimates for the geological age of rock structures on the island. From 1919 through her death, Carlotta continued to analyze the fossils and field notes she had collected and to publish in scientific journals. She also consulted for Royal Dutch Shell’s Venezuelan Division and the Brazilian government, for whom she produced a number of proprietary technical reports. As a part of a larger historical research project, this poster summarizes the highlights of Carlotta Maury’s life and work in the context of both her family’s scientific accomplishments and the encouragements and obstacles she encountered, based in part on primary documents found at the Hastings-on-Hudson Historical Society.