The shell-loving scientists torn apart by a mystery woman

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

They lived in Edwardian England at a time of impeccable manners and stiff upper lips, but for these two gentleman scientists something very bitter and acrimonious must have happened to destroy a 25-year collaboration on the study of microscopic sea-shells collected from the other side of the world.

One was a senior civil servant and the other a successful lawyer but both shared the same amateur passion for the formanifera, a group of microscopic marine animals that protect themselves with beautiful, if tiny, shells.

The two amateur collectors spent much of their spare time collaborating closely and even shared rooms at the Natural History Museum in London where they prepared joint scientific papers and exquisite microscope slides packed full of formanifera shells intricately arranged in mesmerizing displays.

Some of the slides spell out simple messages. Some were given by one of the friends to the other as “thank you” slides, and some were lovingly prepared as miniature Christmas presents – one celebrates “Xmas 1912” spelt in tiny shells.

But then in the early 1930s something suddenly happened to rip apart the long friendship of Arthur Earland, a high-ranking civil servant with the Post Office Savings Bank, and Edward Heron-Allen, a wealthy lawyer with Establishment connections.

Documents and letters unearthed by Giles Miller, senior curator of microfossils at the Natural History Museum, suggest that the falling out may have resulted from a combination of events, including professional rivalry over who could claim academic credit for their joint work, and personal enmity over “that final woman” who appears to have come between the two old friends.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests they visited the museum to work on different days after this to avoid seeing each other. Historical data and two key pieces of evidence in the museum archives suggest a number of factors in the deterioration of their personal and professional relationship,” Dr Miller said.

A copy of a scientific monograph authored by Earland alone, even though it was a joint effort, suggests one source of friction. The copy was in the personal collection of Heron-Allan and it contained a note in his own handwriting that had been deliberately obscured by several layers of paper.

“I had my name removed from the titles of this paper, when, on my return from Ceylon in 1931 I found that Earland had claimed all my work upon it as his own,” it reads. Heron-Allen also criticises Earland’s ignorance of other research in the area.

A later letter written in 1943 by Earland, meanwhile, suggests he was jealous of Heron-Allen’s wealthy connections, which allowed him pay for the scientific publications where he was named as the first author. This body of work eventually led Heron-Allen to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society.

And then there was the appearance of a mysterious female, Dr Miller said. “The 1943 letter states that everything was fine until ‘that final woman’ came around. Heron-Allen was a very charismatic and popular figure and often had an entourage of young females. It would appear that one of them may have been involved in the rift between the two scientists,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect