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Bi-Centennial Transaction 1814-2014 Volume XXIII Part 1,  April 2014

Contents:

  • Forward-Making links: processes, dynamics and systems. Dr Christopher Page B Sc PhD FLS (a retirement editorial written for the RGSC'S 200th anniversary.)
  • The value of abandoned mined sites for wildlife: the triumph of nature over our industrial past.   Adrian Spalding
  • Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne: A 19th Century Hypatia and her circle.   Melissa Hardie-Budden MBE

Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne (1817–1873) was a British author, natural philosopher, geologist, conchologist, mineral collector, and philanthropist. In later years, following her father's death, she also became a banker. Today we would probably place her contributions to science under human ecology and natural history.

She was the first woman to be elected a member of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall. During the 200th birthday celebrations of the RGSC, this first woman member was celebrated.  Melissa Hardie- Budden MBE took this bi-centennial occasion to present a study of Elizabeth C T Carne and her scientific and artistic relatives and associates. A local and national celebrity in her own time, Carne had been lost in the pages of history until now.   

Carne was the fifth child of eight children born to Joseph Carne, FRS, and his wife Mary Thomas of Glamorgan. Elizabeth was born at Rivière House, in the parish of Phillack, near Hayle, Cornwall.

At Rivière House, owned by the Cornish Copper Company of which her father was the Company Director, the cellars were fitted out as laboratories where smelting processes of copper and tin were tested, and minerals and rocks studied for their constituents. Davies

Gilbert (first president of the RGSC) came to the laboratory along with the young Humphry

Davy to view the workings of a scientific environment. 

 

Born into an influential and wealthy Methodist family of mining agents and merchants, Elizabeth was acutely aware throughout her

life of poverty and deprivation in surrounding mining areas, and the dire need for education and social support for those less

fortunate. She read widely, studied mathematics, the classics, and learned several languages.

Educated at home in Chapel Street, Penzance with her sisters, she assisted her father with his extensive mineral collections and shared his keen interest in geological formations, age and density.  

On her father's death in 1858, she came into a large fortune, and used this legacy, following the charitable habits of her parents

and family, to share considerable sums for educational and other philanthropic purposes. She made possible by donating the

purchase price for the land upon which St John's Hall (the town hall) was constructed and separately built a museum on Lower

Queen's Street near her home, in which to exhibit the fine collection of minerals which she had assisted her father in amassing.

She took up her father's partnership from 1858 until her death, as head of the Penzance Bank founded by her grandfather.

She also inherited her father's love of geology, and wrote four papers:  

  • ‘Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall
  • ‘Cliff Boulders and the Former Condition of the Land and Sea in the Land's End district,’
  • ‘The Age of the Maritime Alps surrounding Mentone,’ ‘On the Transition and Metamorphosis of Rocks,’ and
  • ‘On the Nature of the Forces that have acted on the Formation of the Land's End Granite.

Many articles were also contributed by her to the ‘London Quarterly Review,’ and she was the author of several books.