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Reid [née Wynne Edwards], Eleanor Marylocked

(1860–1953)
  • Mary R. S. Creese

Reid [née Wynne Edwards], Eleanor Mary (1860–1953), palaeobotanist, was born on 13 November 1860 in Denbigh, the daughter of John Copner Wynne Edwards, solicitor, and Maria Gitern. After attending Howells School, Denbigh, she enrolled at Westfield College, London University, in 1886. She took a BSc (third-class honours, experimental physics) in 1891 and then taught science and mathematics for four years at Cheltenham Ladies' College.

On 21 April 1897 Wynne Edwards married Clement Reid (1852/3–1916), botanist and geologist with the Geological Survey and a pioneer in the study of fossil seeds and fruits. Almost immediately she began to collaborate in his research. Working backwards from Pleistocene assemblages, the Reids proved conclusively, in the face of some scepticism from the botanical world, that ancient floras could be reliably reconstructed from sources rich in fossil fruiting organs alone. Their thoroughness and persistence set new standards, Clement Reid's Origin of the British Flora (1899) reporting record numbers of specimens in some deposits. Between 1907, when their first joint paper appeared, and 1915, they published about a dozen articles; several were of major importance, including their extensive monograph on Pliocene floras of the Dutch–Prussian border (1915).

In 1913 Eleanor and Clement Reid moved to Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, from where, after her husband died in 1916, Eleanor Reid continued palaeobotanical research. Publication of her analytical review of Pliocene floras (1920) brought her wide recognition. Her home became a centre for palaeobotanical work, housing an ever growing specimen collection, and she was frequently visited by leading botanists and geologists, British and European. Recipient of the Geological Society's Murchison fund in 1919, she was elected a fellow of the society in 1920. That year she was joined by Marjorie Chandler [see below], a young palaeobotanist from Newnham College, Cambridge, and the partnership they formed, one of the most remarkable in the annals of palaeobotany, resulted in the production of two monumental treatises on Cenozoic plants.

Bembridge Flora, volume 1 of their Catalogue of Cainozoic Plants, appeared in 1926. Based on collections in the British Museum (Natural History), it greatly increased knowledge of the Oligocene flora of the Isle of Wight. Reid and Chandler then studied the museum's extensive collection of fossil seeds and fruits from the Eocene London clay, an undertaking which, expanded to include analysis of their own collections, required seven years of intensive work. The resulting London Clay Flora (1933) became a classic of palaeobotany, one of the most important accounts of any Tertiary flora ever published. Both monographs included lengthy introductions in which Reid presented a lucid account of the floral and climatic succession throughout the Tertiary period. The sequence demonstrated was one of gradual change from northern European flora back in time through temperate subtropical to the tropical rainforest of the Eocene London clay. Further, the detailed morphological and anatomical examinations of fossil seeds and fruits that the work involved threw considerable light on evolutionary changes within genera and families. An outstanding contribution towards making knowledge of the Tertiary floras of southern Britain the most complete for any region at the time, the study was recognized with the 1936 award to Eleanor Reid of the Geological Society's Lyell medal.

Reid lived frugally, almost austerely. She worked with primitive, home-made equipment (which probably stimulated her notable development of new techniques); her attic library was said to be 'icy in winter and scorching in summer'. After publication of her second monograph she undertook no more major commitments. She continued to bring out short papers, however, and followed closely the continuing work on Tertiary floras of Marjorie Chandler, who remained with her as companion and ultimately nurse.

Able, original, persevering and also critical, Reid had uncompromisingly high standards but was unfailingly dependable in helping colleagues. She served on local school, church, and women's committees, getting about until the age of eighty-eight by bicycle. Reading, especially travel books, was her relaxation. She died of cerebral thrombosis on 28 September 1953 at Wedgewood Nursing Home, Milford-on-Sea, and was buried on 2 October.

Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler (1897–1983), palaeobotanist, was born on 18 May 1897 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, the oldest of six children of Frederick Augustus Chandler, jeweller, and his wife, Alice Sarah Roberts. She attended a dame-school in Leamington Spa and then, from Leamington high school, she went by scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1915, qualifying first class in part one of the natural sciences tripos in 1919. (She received her MA in 1948.)

From 1933, supported mainly by small annual grants from the British Museum (Natural History), she extended the classic ReidChandler investigations to other horizons of the Eocene and Oligocene. Her results, which brought her international recognition, are recorded in some twenty papers and in an impressive series of monographs, The Lower Tertiary Floras of Southern England (1961–4). These include a 354-page supplement to the London Clay Flora, studies of the pipe-clay series of Dorset and the Bournemouth beds, and a general survey. After retiring she occupied herself with gardening and church work, although her contacts with palaeobotanists continued. She died in Swindon, Wiltshire, on 1 October 1983, and was buried on 6 October at Kempsford, Gloucester.

Sources

  • Proceedings of the Geological Society (1954), cxl–cxlii
  • Nature, 173 (1954), 190
  • The Times (1 Oct 1953)
  • The Times (9 Oct 1953)
  • H. N. Andrews, The fossil hunters: in search of ancient plants (1980), 373–81
  • Westfield College register of students, Queen Mary College, London, vol. 1 (1882–98), 36
  • University of London, general register, pt 3
  • Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 75 (1919), xlix [award of Murchison fund]
  • Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 92 (1936), liv–lv [award of Lyell medal]
  • The Cheltenham Ladies' College archives, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • Desmond, Botanists [Clement Reid]
  • [A. B. White and others], eds., Newnham College register, 1871–1971, 2nd edn, 1 (1979), 262 [Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler]
  • K. I. M. Chesters, ‘Marjorie E. J. Chandler’, Tertiary Research, 9 (1988), 1–6 [Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler]
  • K. I. M. Chesters, International Organisation of Palaeobotany Newsletter, 22 (1983), 5–6 [Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler]
  • The Times (5 Oct 1983), 30 [Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler]
  • b. cert.
  • d. cert.

Archives

  • BM, collection of modern seeds and fruits

Likenesses

  • M. Chandler?, photograph, 1921 (Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler), repro. in Andrews, Fossil hunters, 375
  • H. N. Andrews, photograph, 1973 (Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler), repro. in Andrews, The fossil hunters, 378

Wealth at Death

£88,732—Marjorie Elizabeth Jane Chandler: probate, 16 Dec 1983, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

R. Desmond, (1977); rev. edn (1994)