Dorothea Bate: Carmarthen scientist gets blue plaque

Dorothea Bate and Napier HouseImage copyright
Trustees of Natural History Museum/Richard Law

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Dorothea Bate was born at Napier House in Carmarthen

The woman believed to be the first to be employed as a scientist at London’s Natural History Museum is having a blue plaque dedicated in her home town.

Dorothea Bate, born in 1878, had little formal education but a fascination with wildlife and nature prompted her to leave Carmarthenshire aged 19 and ask for a job at the museum.

She spent more than 50 years there and led expeditions around the world.

The plaque will be unveiled at Napier House in Carmarthen where she was born.

Ms Bates became an expert in archaeozoology, the study of animal remains, with some of her largest discoveries including fossilised elephants and the bones of a giant tortoise in Bethlehem.

The plaque will be dedicated by paleobiologist Tori Herridge from the Natural History Museum at a ceremony organised by Carmarthen Civic Society.

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Ms Bate’s first job at the museum was classifying bird skins, but the focus of what became her life’s work was exploring how and why different species adapt and change.

She studied fossils and was fascinated by archaeology which led her to specialise in archaeozoology.

Her expeditions took her as far afield as Cyprus, Malta, Crete, China and Palestine, from where her finds were taken back to the museum in Kensington.

In 1940, Ms Bate was elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

During World War Two she worked in the zoological branch of the museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, and became its officer in charge.

She continued working until her death in 1951.

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