Ethel Dobbie Currie

(1899-1963)
Curator of Geology
Hunterian Museum




Ethel Dobbie Currie
, daughter of James Ferguson Currie and Elizabeth Laughlan Allan , was born December 04, 1898 in Cathcart, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. She died March 24, 1963 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland.




Ethel Currie c.1954
Dr Ethel Dobbie Currie in about 1954

Notes for Ethel Dobbie Currie:

Obituary Notice for Ethel D. Currie:

Ethel D. Currie, D.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.S.E., F.G.S., F.M.A. - Ethel Dobbie Currie (1899-1963) dedicated her life to Geology, achieving high eminence both in administration and in research. She matched her concern for the well-being of her science with an altruism and an integrity that allowed her to give unstintedly the greatest personal assisstance to fellow geologists old and young, in furtherance of their work and in the use of the collections submitted to her care
.Ethel Currie on field trip

Her whole professional career was spent in the University of Glasgow. She graduated under Professor J.W.Gregory in 1920, and after a short period as Demonstrator in his department was appointed Assistant Curator of the geological collections in the Hunterian Museum. There she had the onerous tasks of bringing into order and cataloguing the minerals, rocks, and fossils that, some going back to William Hunter's day, were the riches of nearly two hundred years' accumulation, and that were rapidly increasing in number as generations of students and researchers came and went. This office work, laborious and never-ending, was in its nature less well known to the public than it deserved to be; and visitors to the Museum were better acquainted with her through the many exhibits she prepared to illustrate various aspects of Geology, notably the intrsuctional show-cases in petrology, mineralogy, and palaeontology, and in the illustration of evolutionary lines. In her later years, with the expert technical help of Mr. F. Munro, she took a special interest in the morphology and relations of fossil vertebrates: the exhibits she prepared, illustrated by exquisitely constructed models in supplement to actual fossils, are unique of their kind and are a witness to the meticulous accuracy and the exhaustive thoroughness of her work. She used the exhibits to effect in teaching and exposition that were not the least of her contributions as a member to the University. Her aid was also enlisted on innumerable occasions in providing information for a whole host of visitors to the Museum, whom she was quickly concerned to make welcome. Her long and devoted service was recognised by the University when she was promoted to the grade of Senior Lecturer in 1960. She retired in 1962.

Her interests in research were palaeontological. In her early days she described as opportunity offered, collections of fossils that came to the Museum. These included numbers of sea-urchins from overseas, and she became an authority on Mesozoic and Tertiary echinoids especially of Africa and southern Asia, publishing descriptions of faunas from Cyprus, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Kenya, Persia, Samaria, and Burma. She also described xiphosurs from Lesmahagow, Mesozoic corals from Somaliland, and even collections of rock specimens from the Silurian. Some of this work appeared in the first volumes of Monographs of the HUnterian Museum, a series she helped Professor Gregory to establish.

Later she extended her interests beyond morphology and the descriptions and recording of genera and species; and in a sequence of papers on Promicroceras and other Jurassic ammonites she illustrated morphogeny in cephalopods as a process revealing the effects of differential growth rates and of ontogenetic allometry. Her discernment and her technique enabled her to make notable advances in palaeontological theory that in their turn were to serve her in good stead when she began a comprehensive description of the Scottish Carboniferous goniatites. This work, which turned out to be her magnum opus, had its germs in an analysis of the fauna of Skipsey's Marine Band = a first thorough study by the Society in Ethel Currie in c. 1955 1937. It expanded into a detailed account of every known species and variety - almost every informative specimen - of Scottish goniatite. The formidable task was highly rewarding, for it resulted not only in an illuminating monograph of fossil types but also in a version of Carboniferous stratigraphy of major importance: Dr Currie for the first time not only gave precision to the zonal sequence of the strata, but demonstrated the great gap in the Namurian series, delineated Lower from Upper Carboniferous, and proved that the rocks of the Calciferous Sandstone group in all their goniatitic horizons belong to the Viséan stage. She finally rounded off her work on goniatites by discussing, in her presidential address to the Society, ecology and habits as revealed in different shapes of shell.

Dr. Currie sustained the Society with her support for many years; and although she qwas modest to the point of diffidence her worth was recognised in her repeated election to the Council. Her choice as Vice-President was a natural sequence, and in 1952 she became the first woman President in the hundred years of the Society's history. The Royal Society of Edinburgh bestowed upon her a similar distinction when she became in 1949 one of the first three women ever to be admitted to the Fellowship - and it also recognised her ability and the outstanding quality of her work when it awarded her the Neill Prize in 1945. (Source: T.N. George 1963 Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow, vol XXV: p98-100)


Sources for Ethel Dobbie Currie:

  1. Birth record GROS, 560/00 0585Born at 11am at 92 Seymour St., Crossmyloof, Cathcart.
  2. Deceased RSE Fellows 1783-2002,
  3. 1901 census, GROS 560/00 016/00 015James Currie (Surveyor age 32) lives here with wife Elizabeth A. Currie (31), Raymond A. Currie (3), and Ethel D. Currie (2) all born in Glasgow Lanarkshire.
  4. Obituary, 98"She graduated under Professor J. W. George in 1920, and after a short period as Demonstrator in his department was appointed Assistant Curator of the geological collections in the Hunterian Museum..... She retired in 1962."