In 1898, a 19-year-old girl marched into the Natural History Museum and demanded a job. At the time, no women were employed there as scientists, but for the determined Dorothea Bate this was the first step in an extraordinary career as a pioneering explorer and fossil-hunter and the beginning of an association with the Museum that was to last for more than 50 years.
As a young woman in the early 1900s she explored the islands of Cyprus, Crete and the little known Majorca and Menorca, braving parental opposition and considerable physical hardship and danger. In remote mountain caves and sea-battered cliffs, she discovered, against enormous odds, the fossil evidence of unique species of extinct fauna, previously unknown to science, including dwarf elephants and hippos, giant dormice and a strange small goat-like antelope. Thirty years later in Bethlehem, she excavated against a backdrop of violence and under the shadow of war. By the end of her life Dorothea had earned an international reputation as an expert in her field.
Discovering Dorothea captures the indomitable spirit of a woman who, against social pressure and in the face of physical hardship, devoted her life to discovery and deepened our knowledge of the natural world.
Karolyn Shindler is a former producer and editor at the BBC. She also worked as a political consultant to BBC World Service, and is a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
"Shindler's wonderment at Dorothea is contagious [...] She distils the driven energy, resilience and good-natured charm of this instinctive scientist"
– Daily Telegraph
"A splendidly readable and sympathetic account of a life dominated by a singular and singleminded passion."
– Literary Review
"Karolyn Shindler has rescued a remarkable woman from undeserved obscurity. Dorothea Bate was a pioneer palaeontologist and fearless explorer, who excavated remote caves on the Mediterranean islands at a time when women were still struggling to be taken seriously as scientists. She made known to the world extraordinary tiny hippopotamuses, weird elephants and the 'goaty animal with ratlike teeth' Myotragus. Schindler's excellent book serves to illuminate not only the travails of fieldwork a century ago, but also the problems faced by women seeking to carve out their own intellectual space in the sometimes stifling atmosphere of respectable Britain. A compelling read."
– Richard Fortey, author, Earth: An Intimate History