Biology & Natural History

(Edinger, Tilly) Kohring, Rolf & Gerlad Kreft | Tilly Edinger. Leben und Werk einer Jüdischen Wissenschaftlerin

  • First edition, first impression of this key academic volume on the life and work of palaeontologist Johanna Gabrielle Otellie (Tilly) Edinger (1897-1967), whose study of fossil skulls helped establish the field of paleoneurology. The contents, by a variety of authors in both German and English, include a detailed biography and bibliography, analyses of her work in its scientific context, chapters on her experiences of being Jewish and deaf, and an homage by Stephen Jay Gould.

    Edinger earned a doctorate in natural science at the University of Frankfurt in 1921, writing her dissertation on the Triassic marine reptiles called nothosaurs. She became curator of fossil vertebrates at Frankfurt’s Senckenberg Natural History Museum in 1928, remaining in her position even after the rise of Nazism thanks to the protection of the museum director, and telling friends that she would not be taken to a concentration camp as she always carried with her “a fatal dose of veronal” (p. 7). Edinger lost her position in 1938 and obtained a British visa in May 1939, escaping Germany just before the outbreak of war. In 1940 she left Britain for Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she worked as a researcher at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and taught at Wellesley College.

    Ednger’s major work on fossil brains, Die Fossilen Gehirne “was published in 1929 and won her international recognition... In 1948, she completed her major study of horse fossil brains, analysed from casts made of the interior of skulls (endocasts)... Her analysis, according to A. S. Romer and Stephen Jay Gould, helped establish the new field of paleoneurology. She demonstrated that brain evolution was more accurately interpreted directly from fossils rather than from a misleading hierarchy of modern or ancient forms. In the horse brain she showed that the forebrain had evolved several times, independently, demonstrating that rates and styles of change varied in different lineages. According to Gould, her work ranks among the dozen or so major figures of modern vertebrate palaeontology” (Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p. 401).

  • Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2003.

    Quarto. Original grey cloth, titles to spine and upper board in green, grey endpapers. With the dust jacket. Short pencilled notes about the editors on the copyright page, the foreword, and in the contents list. Spine slightly rolled, upper board just a little bowed. A very good copy in the lightly rubbed jacket with some minor scuffs.