16. Isobel Bennett Rewrote the Guide to Australia’s Coastlines
Isobel Bennett was born in Australia in 1909, a time when women were hardly expected to go into the study of science and especially not make any meaningful contributions to any discipline. She wanted desperately to study biology, but at the age of 16, her family told her that she had to go to business college and find a job. During the Great Depression, she found a job at the Associated Board for the Royal Schools of Music, but as the economic downturn took its toll, she found herself without a job.
A stroke of luck put her on a cruise ship at the same time as a famed marine biologist, Dr. Dakin, who was currently looking for a new assistant. Though she had no experience or education in the field, she was hired to work on the ship with him. With him, she began her work in studying plankton, intertidal zones, and perhaps most importantly, the Great Barrier Reef. Her findings were published alongside his, and when he took a year-long sabbatical, she filled in his teaching position. She went on to develop her own career and became one of the most essential marine biologists in the history of Australia, having even thoroughly revised the guidebook to the Australian coastlines.
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