Isabella Gordon


Marine Biologist

Dr. Isabella Gordon, D.Sc., OBE (born in Keith, Moray) was a respected Scottish marine biologist who specialised in carcinology and was an expert in crabs and sea spiders. She worked at the Natural History Museum and was awarded an OBE in 1961.

While at Yale University William Thomas Calman, Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum, London, offered her a post at the museum. She returned to the UK and in November 1928 took up the position of Assistant Keeper (2nd class) with responsibility for the Crustacea Section. Gordon was the first woman to be appointed as a full-time permanent member of Museum staff. In 1937 the Crustacea Section was split in to two parts; J.P. Harding took over entomostraca while Gordon managed malacostraca as Principal Scientific Officer. During her time at the Museum she published many articles and books and identified specimens of crabs sent to her from all over the world.

She was a Fellow and Council member (1950-1953) of the Linnean Society and a member of its Curatorial Board until her 1981. She was also a Fellow of the Zoological Society. In 1960 she became one of the original members of the Editorial Board of the peer reviewed journal Crustaceana.

Gordon had a great sense of humour and was a fan of limericks. In 1958 she published a review of Siewing's 'Anatomie und Histologie von Thermosbaena mirabilis' under the title 'A thermophilous shrimp from Tunisia'. The title inspired Dr A.J. Bateman to send her the limerick.

She retired from the Natural History Museum in 1966 and retained a room in the Crustacea Section which she shared with Dr Sidnie Manton, and continued to work in the Museum until about 1971. In 1983 she suffered a stroke which left her partially paralysed. In 1987 she moved from London to live with the family of her nephew Dr John Gordon in Carlisle. Her health deteriorated after a cataract operation in March 1988 and she died on 11 May 1988.

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